Conscious consumerism forecast to hit record highs


Conscious consumerism is forecast to hit record highs in the coming year, defying suggestions that shoppers would would sideline ethical values during a global health crisis. 

That’s one of the main findings of the Co-op’s latest Ethical Consumerism Report.

The report, which has been tracking ethical shopping trends for over 20 years, contains an in-depth analysis of concerns about the environment, animal welfare, energy consumption and the ethics of food production, from Fairtrade to organics.

Back in 1999 the total size of the ethical food market was just £1bn, the latest figures show it has swelled to £12.5bn – a 4.66% rise in the year.

Free-range eggs and plant-based products (where sales were up by 15.2% and 11.4% respectively) were standout categories in food and drink. 

Boost for local retailers
During the pandemic, the report found that the ‘stay-at-or-near-home’ culture has inevitably led to a boom in online shopping and home deliveries as well as sharp rise in local shopping. But this is forecast to continue post pandemic as some 58% of shoppers say they are determined to continue to support the local high street in the coming year.

Community spirit has also refused to be dented by the challenges of the pandemic, with a third of consumers set to once more support food bank donations or donate more to charities (46%) when things go back to some form of normality.

And ethical consumerism, which is forecast to exceed £100bn despite the pandemic, is set to grow further in 2021 with a third of shoppers (32%) aiming to purchase more plant-based food and Fairtrade (27%), reduce single-use plastic consumption (52%) and become more energy efficient in the home, with 49% aiming to reduce heating and lighting consumption.

According to the report, thriftiness will be a major trend in 2021 as over a third of shoppers (37%) say they’ll buy more second-hand products. And the cycling boom is set to roll on with a third of people (44%) expecting to choose to cycle more.

Sustainable shopping ‘big spend’
Jo Whitfield, CEO, Co-op Food, said: “The Co-op has tracked ethical spending for two decades and this barometer on ethical purchases shows a remarkable shift. Sustainable shopping has moved from being a niche market to an area of big spend. As growth continues, threats will naturally exist due to the economic impact of the pandemic, but through a challenging environment, opportunities will open up.”

Image: Better Food Company, Bristol. Jim Manson