"Consumers are aspiring to achieve the double pay-off of exclusive experiences while supporting guilt-free and eco-friendly goods and services," says Gwynne Rogers, business director for NMI's lifestyles of health and sustainability division.
"It's why luxury eco-tourism is such a fast-growing category. It gives people the chance to say, 'I didn't just lay on a beach, I lay on a beach and saw the rainforest canopy.' Or why Gap's 'Go Red' campaign has done so well. You get to wear a cute T-shirt, while announcing to the world that you're committed to helping people in Africa."
In other words, she says, it's not enough to have it all, in terms of products that do good things. "Consumers also want to feel better about what they have," she says.
The trend is most noticeable in products that allow consumers to turn their deeper values into fashion statements.
"When you drive your Prius or walk around with your Whole Foods shopping bag, you project an aura of concern," she says. "But you also get those hidden perks. You save money on gas, and you're getting healthier food."
That "sense of personal reward on top of a social good" is what makes a product feel luxurious, even if it was purchased at a store like Target or H&M.
Rogers says it's one reason shopping at natural food supermarkets is up 20% from 2001, and that the influence of the "USDA Certified Organic" seal on foods has increased 22% since 2004. NMI also reports that the percentage of primary grocery shoppers who agree that organic goods are worth paying a 20% premium for increased from 17% in 2002 to 26% in 2006.
Because of the increases in values-driven experiential shopping, NMI projects "that sales of organic products could reach $24 billion in 2011."