While the recession has certainly nibbled away at the total amount people are willing to spend on products they believe to be green, the environment continues to be a concern for the majority of consumers.
New data from market researcher Mintel shows that 35% say they will still pay more for "environmentally friendly" products, despite changes in the economy. And about half of the most committed shoppers say they are buying "as much or more" organic food than before the crash.
Still, in 2009, growth in green space all but stalled. "We've been tracking this for six years, and we are now seeing that this number has reached a plateau," senior market analyst Chris Haack tells Marketing Daily, "and that seems to have been happening regardless of the recession. It seems to have reached its saturation point."
In its analysis of the food and beverage and personal care categories, which he says are among the most mature in their green offerings and account for most of the purchases, people say they are spending less but remain committed. In food and beverages, Mintel reports that sales growth of natural and organic food, which grew 24% from 2006 to 2008, rose just 1.8%.
"People are trading down -- buying cheaper foods," he says, "but they don't want to make a trade all the way down to processed foods." Some 21% of organic food buyers say they have cut down or eliminated organic purchasing, and another 20% have switched to less inexpensive organic options. Based on their commitment and the economy picking up steam, Mintel forecast a 20% growth rate in green food and beverage purchases from 2010 to 2012.
And while sales of green personal care products climbed 18% in the 2006-08 period and just 1.2% in 2009, Mintel predicts rapid growth once consumer spending begins to recover. "One-third of all consumers have never tried organic or natural personal care products, suggesting that there is plenty of room for growth," it reports.
Haack says that consumers in the 25 to 44 age group seem to be the most committed to green products, but that as offerings proliferate, do does confusion about product claims, as well as concerns about greenwashing.
He also anticipates a major uptick in green claims and products in the tech sector, as consumer spending recovers. "The replacement cycle on tech products is so short, it will give marketers more opportunities to differentiate themselves with green benefits."