Carbon Footprint? 8-1/2, EEE

Fair trade coffee has become a common sight for the American consumer
Fair trade coffee has become a common sight for the American consumer

by Jeff Hoyt

Do you know what “carbon footprint” means? When it comes to food and beverage items, any idea what “fair trade” is? What do producers mean when they label their products “sustainable?” Even though many consumers don’t know what these phrases mean, the demand for sustainable food and beverage items continues to increase, according to a recent study.

In an online survey of 2,000 adults conducted by the Chicago-based Mintel, a whopping 84% of respondents said they regularly buy green or sustainable food and drink. However, many of them were unaware of what makes a product sustainable.

“Packaging claims such as ‘recyclable’ or ‘eco– or environmentally friendly’ are fairly well known to consumers, but sustainable product claims such as ‘solar/wind energy usage’ or ‘Fair Trade’ have yet to enter the mainstream consumer consciousness,” David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel points out. “They may have heard of the terms, but they’d be hard-pressed to define them.”

Of those surveyed, 40% have never heard of the solar/wind energy usage claim. Reduced carbon footprint/emissions is another lesser-known claim, as 32% have never heard of it. Thirty-four percent say they’ve never heard of the Fair Trade claim.

So, why are consumers buying these items? According to Mintel research, 45% of sustainable food and drink users cite a perceived belief in superior quality as the reason behind their purchases. Meanwhile, 43% say they buy sustainable food and drink because they’re concerned about environmental/human welfare and 42% say they’re concerned with food safety.

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