Green Consumers! As green becomes “mainstream” and an increasingly large number of consumers embrace environmentally responsible practices, green consumers are becoming a considerably large and lucrative target market. “Green consumers” represent a diverse array of values, beliefs, demographics, and psychographics (Palmer, 2009, March 24). According to NMI, theAmerican Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) industry is a rapidly growing market for green products and services that targets environmentally conscious consumers who regularly make ecologically-sound purchasing decisions. The LOHAS industry, most recently valued at US$209 billion, is estimated to comprise approximately 19% of the adult population in the United States, equalling a market of 41 million consumers (LOHAS, 2008). From its original inception, the LOHAS industry has evolved considerably and has become an increasingly mainstream market with an established consumer base, products and product categories. This industry is growing so rapidly that it is expected to reach US$420 billion by 2010 and US$845 billion by 2015. As the industry evolved, so did the composition of its segments, which have undergone a re-organization. Three of these segments of particular interest to Canadian agri-food exporters are described below:
This consumer group does not have a green outlook but does practice some green behaviours, such as recycling and energy conservation & represents 19% of the American adult population.
Unconcerned – The remaining 17% of the American adult population does not practice environmental responsibility, and is not a key target market for the LOHAS industry. Another method of segmenting the growing and broad spectrum of “green shoppers” is with Information Resources Inc. (IRI) and TNS’ “Shades of Green Segmentation”, which segments the green consumer market into eight categories based on how consumers view environmental stewardship.
The eight consumer segments identified are: Eco-Centrics, Respectful Stewards, Proud Traditionalists, Frugal Earth Mothers, Skeptical Individualists, Eco-Chic, Green Naives, and Eco-Villians. Each of these consumer segments possesses different perceptions of the appropriate cost and integration of environmental responsibility in their lifestyle. Where these segments fall on the “green spectrum” decreases in ascending order of the segments listed. Despite the economy in 2008, Eco-Centrics remained constant with their green spending, while the segments Respectful Stewards and Proud Traditionalists actually increased their spending (Palmer, 2009, March 24). Canadian producers through to exporters should monitor the burgeoning “green” market and take advantage of the shift toward green by implementing, and in turn, marketing their sustainable practices to this growing consumer market. In the past few years, many products which only originally targeted LOHAS consumers, have now become mainstream, as the green movement has increasingly gained awareness and uptake. The range of possibilities and consumer interest in a variety of green products and services provides significant opportunity in this diverse industry. Research from NMI has found that if a company is mindful of its environmental and societal impact, 58% of consumers are “completely” or “somewhat” more likely to buy their products or services, 55% are more loyal to the company, and 28% are less concerned with the product price (Molyneaux, 2008).
In a recent study by Brandweek, it was found that despite the current recession, consumers are still seeking value over price in their purchasing decisions, which includes products perceived as having superior value. While this may not necessarily indicate loyal sales of “green” products during the recession, this importance of value with consumers may be a key factor in retaining sales of green products throughout the weakened economy (Scott-Thomas, 2009). Organic sales have also continued to increase as consumers are now spending less money on expensive items and eating out, but passing this extra money on to their groceries which they consume at home.