Nielsen insight: Alcohol and the sustainability conversation

We know consumer and market trends come and go. We only have to think back to this time last year, when Greta Thunberg was largely unknown to many, to observe the phenomenal speed of the impact she has had on the sustainability conversation around the world.

The off-trade is not immune to this discussion and the pressure is mounting on both retailers and manufacturers. As retailers have set a renewed focus on their big sustainability pledges, they will be looking for sustainable suppliers to partner with and to help them achieve their objectives.

A recent Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel survey showed that nearly half of UK shoppers claim they would be willing to switch brands to those that are more sustainable. There’s no doubt that sustainability is influencing purchase decisions. When we asked our shoppers how they felt about sustainability in relation to purchasing alcohol, the at-home recyclability of a product is becoming increasingly important, with 15% of UK shoppers stating this to be their number one sustainability concern for alcohol products.

In addition to recycling, Fairtrade credentials, locally-made products, and even the air miles travelled for the product to reach the shelf are all factors for consumers in their purchasing decisions. The industry is already responding. Over the past couple of years we have seen brewers transform multipacks, moving from shrinkwrap packaging to cardboard and even looking at innovative ways to remove plastic rings.

Spirits manufacturers have dialled up the heritage and provenance of their products. Ready-to-drink products, which come in recyclable cans, have surged in popularity. But is this enough?

Sustainability will only continue to grow in importance, and the alcohol market will be no exception. Packaging is one element of the sustainability conversation but more demand will rise around the source of products and their carbon footprint.

With nearly half of shoppers willing to switch brands to those that are more sustainable, off trade brands which can be bold and make steps towards a more sustainable offering will not only resonate with shoppers but also those off-trade retailers who are making commitments to a more sustainable world.

Gemma Cooper is Nielsen's commercial business partner

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