It's easy, however, to fall into the trap of believing that positioning a product as sustainable and green is some sort of silver bullet that will drive product sales to unimaginable heights. That has never been true and is less true as we experience the worst recession in our lifetimes.
While there is a sizable segment of the population (16%) that will purchase products in the interest of saving the planet, (LOHAS defines these as very progressive on environment and society, looking for ways to do more [and] not too concerned about price) this is only one segment of the green consumer market. It's one that has seemingly expanded in the past few years as consumers across the spectrum felt wealthier, but in tough times, this segment necessarily shrinks.
Marketers should, however, pay attention to two other psychographic segments, Naturalites and Conventionals, that are leading the second wave of green consumption.
The word "green" has, in common usage, come to cover not only that which is good for the planet, but also that which is good for the body. For example, the green movement has been instrumental in campaigning for removal of toxic chemicals in the food supply, which benefits both planet and people.
As our population ages and consumers (especially new mothers) become more aware of the concerns with conventional farming methods, more are driven to look beyond low-fat and heart-healthy products for those grown naturally or organically. This means the Naturalites segment, or those who buy green for health and wellness purposes, is booming. This segment is less likely to give up their favorite organic product due to budgetary concerns -- placing health as a priority -- and will skimp in other areas.
A second key group of green consumers that, in the past, cast into the shadowy back waters of green marketing, is the Conventionals, those practical consumers who shop on price. More and more of us are falling into that category these days!
Conventionals are becoming aware, sometimes to their surprise, that the green choice is often the cheapest. Appliance manufacturers and various energy-related industries have been focusing on this segment for years, but new opportunities have opened up for consumer package goods, especially those seen as commodities. As consumers try their hand at cooking from scratch, making their own cleaning supplies, crafting and retro entertainment, a key repositioning opportunities open up.
So, as aspirational consumers desert high-profile stores like Whole Foods, preferring saving money to being seen, a whole new group of consumers is ripe to take their place.