2021
9
UK The Ethical Food Consumer Market Report 2021
2021-07-16T04:13:07+01:00
OX1049147
2195
140303
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Report
en_GB
“Increased consumer awareness of environmental issues, stoked by media coverage of the pandemic, offers considerable growth potential for ethical food and drink. However, widespread consumer doubts over whether their actions…

UK The Ethical Food Consumer Market Report 2021

£ 2,195 (Excl.Tax)

Report Summary

The UK The Ethical Food Consumer report identifies consumer attitudes towards ethics in the food industry, ethical food shopping, and consumer priorities in the UK. This market report covers the market size, market forecast, market segmentation and industry trends for the UK Ethical Food Consumer market in the UK.

Current Market Landscape 

The price of ethical food and drink remains a primary barrier for more widespread buying of ethical food and drink, but this was notably down in 2019, reflecting the expansion in own-label products with ethical certifications over 2019-21. Highlighting the breadth of ethical certified own-label brands and a way to get ‘value with values’ should therefore allow the grocers to drive sales of ethical food and drink to win favour with consumers.

  • 60% of adults buy food/drink across three or more ethical certifications.
  • 85% of adults have bought food/drink with some form of ethical certification in the six months to April 2021.
  • Price is the primary barrier to buying more ethical food/drink, cited by 34% of people who do not buy all types of certified food and drink products.

The COVID-19 lockdowns and the closure of the hospitality sector for much of 2020 boosted the sales of food and drink overall, as well as food and drink with selected ethical certifications. Media coverage linking humans’ environmental impact with the spread of global pandemics also prompted many shoppers to actively seek out ethically certified products, including fresh and frozen products.

Future Market Trends in the Ethical Food Consumer market

Widespread consumer doubts over whether their actions make a difference to the environment presents a challenge to governments and organisations looking to steer people towards more sustainable habits. Consumer uncertainty over what different ethical certifications stand for and over which ethical issues to prioritise also presents a challenge to brands with ethical certifications looking to gain sales in the food and drinks market, engendering apathy and hindering certified products’ ability to gain sales.

It is imperative therefore for food and drink companies to give tangible details of what the different ethical certifications on their products stand for, and to prove to shoppers that they are making a positive difference by buying them. Demonstrating the potential here, clearer indication of where the extra money from certified products went would persuade 56% of adults to buy ethical food and drink more often.

Read on to discover more details or take a look at all of our Food and Drink market research.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on sales of food and drink with ethical certifications.
  • Purchasing of food and drink with ethical certifications by type.
  • Shoppers’ motivations for buying ethical food and drink.
  • Principal barriers to more widespread purchase of ethical food and drink.
  • Ethical issues that consumers see as top priorities for food and drink companies.
  • Shoppers’ motivations for buying ethical food and drink.
  • Ethics in the food industry.
  • Ethical food and drink.
  • Ethical food shopping UK.

Covered in this report

Brands: Evian, Tropicana, M&S, Tesco, Pilgrim’s Choice, Warburton’s, Heinz, Co-Op, Aldi, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Ben & Jerry’s, Morrisons, Ribena, Young’s, Innocent, Rhug Estate, Flawsome, Sapling, Moo Free, The Unbelievable ALT, Oatly, BrewDog, Onken, Nouveaux, C’est Qui Le Patron?!, This Isn’t Chicken.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Alice Baker, a leading analyst in the Food & Drink sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Increased consumer awareness of environmental issues, stoked by media coverage of the pandemic, offers considerable growth potential for ethical food and drink. However, widespread consumer doubts over whether their actions make a difference and uncertainty over what the different certifications stand for pose considerable barriers to encouraging more ethical shopping habits. It is therefore imperative for companies to give consumers tangible evidence that they can effect positive change through their food and drink choices.
Alice Baker
Senior Research Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

      • Key issues covered in this Report
        • COVID-19: market context
          • Economic and other assumptions
            • Products covered in this Report
            • Executive Summary

                • Impact of COVID-19 on food and drink with selected ethical certifications
                  • Figure 1: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on food and drink with organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and MSC certifications
                • The market
                  • Increased distribution drives sales growth for leading ethical certifications over 2015-20
                    • Changed working patterns and consumers’ increased environmental awareness to fuel further growth over 2021-26
                      • Figure 2: Value sales of food and drink with organic, MSC, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certifications, 2016-26
                    • Environmental issues come under increased media and government attention in 2020-21
                      • UK governments take action on the environment and animal welfare
                        • Companies and brands
                          • Environmentally friendly packaging claims are widespread, other environmental claims are rarer
                            • Brands look to make animal and human welfare claims tangible
                              • Brands and retailers look to showcase their support for charitable initiatives
                                • The consumer
                                  • Eight in ten adults have bought food/drink with ethical certifications
                                    • Figure 3: Purchase of food/drink with ethical certifications, by type, 2019 and 2021
                                  • Animal welfare and the environment are important issues to many
                                    • Figure 4: Reasons for buying ethical food and drink, 2019 and 2021
                                  • Price is less of barrier than previously; certifications need to explain what they stand for
                                    • Figure 5: Barriers to buying ethical food and drink, 2019 and 2021
                                  • Strong feel-good factor about ethical products, but many doubt they can make a difference
                                    • Figure 6: Behaviours relating to ethical food and drink, 2021
                                  • Eating seasonally is widely seen as an environmentally friendly act
                                    • Figure 7: Attitudes towards ethical food and drink, 2021
                                • Issues and Insights

                                  • Pandemic boosts people’s environmental consciousness, but further education on the multiple sides of sustainability needed
                                    • Need to reassure consumers that their actions make a difference
                                      • Feel-good factor around ethical shopping offers opportunities both for healthy and indulgent products
                                      • The Market – Key Takeaways

                                        • Increased distribution drives sales growth for leading ethical certifications over 2015-20
                                          • Changed working patterns and consumers’ increased environmental awareness to fuel further growth over 2021-26
                                            • Environmental issues come under increased media and government attention in 2020-21
                                              • UK governments take action on the environment and animal welfare
                                              • Market Size, Segmentation and Forecast

                                                • COVID-19 outbreak boosts sales of food and drink with leading ethical certifications in 2020-21
                                                  • Figure 8: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on food and drink with organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and MSC certifications
                                                • Increased distribution drives rapid growth in ethically certified food and drink over 2015-20
                                                  • Expansion of own-label drives sales growth for certified products over 2015-20
                                                    • Pandemic boosts sales both directly and indirectly in 2020
                                                      • Organic benefits from changes in consumer shopping behaviours
                                                        • MSC sees sales slip in 2020 due to disruption to mackerel supplies
                                                          • Figure 9: Value sales of food and drink with selected leading ethical certifications, 2015-20
                                                        • Shift to more home working and consumers’ increased awareness of ethical issues should drive further sales growth for 2021-26
                                                            • Figure 10: Value sales of food and drink with organic, MSC, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certifications, 2016-26
                                                            • Figure 11: Value sales of food and drink with organic, MSC, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certifications, 2016-26
                                                          • Market drivers and assumptions
                                                            • Figure 12: Key drivers affecting Mintel’s market forecast, 2015-25
                                                          • Learnings from the 2008/09 recession
                                                            • Figure 13: Value sales of organic food and drink, 2007-11
                                                          • Forecast methodology
                                                          • Market Drivers

                                                            • Consumers’ improved financial confidence in 2021 bodes well for ethically certified products
                                                              • Figure 14: Consumers’ confidence in their finances for the coming year, share of population saying they are pretty confident they will be ok, 2020- 21
                                                            • Environmental issues come under increased media and government attention in 2020-21
                                                              • COVID-19 pandemic heightens focus on food production’s environmental impact
                                                                • UK fails to achieve UN biodiversity targets for 2020
                                                                  • Antibiotic resistance is described as one of the top threats to humanity
                                                                    • Switzerland holds referendum on pesticides use
                                                                      • Criticism of certification schemes could undermine consumer confidence
                                                                        • Fairtrade and FSC are among schemes criticised for failing to sufficiently hold corporations to account
                                                                          • Rainforest Alliance tightens its standards in response to criticism from Latin American banana associations
                                                                            • MSC slammed by Netflix documentary
                                                                              • UK governments take action on the environment
                                                                                • English government unveils its sustainable development goals
                                                                                  • Deposit return schemes planned for the various nations
                                                                                    • Concerns raised that post-Brexit trade deals will compromise animal welfare
                                                                                      • Defra looks to raise animal welfare standards and to reform welfare labelling
                                                                                        • Environmental concerns drive meat and dairy reduction trends
                                                                                          • Food companies join coalition calling for greater environmental responsibility
                                                                                          • Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

                                                                                            • Environmentally friendly packaging claims are widespread, other environmental claims are rarer
                                                                                              • Brands look to make animal and human welfare claims tangible
                                                                                                • Brands and retailers look to showcase their support for charitable initiatives
                                                                                                • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                  • Ethical and environmental claims feature on 60% of food and drink launches in 2020
                                                                                                    • Figure 15: Share of UK food and drink launches with ethical and environmental claims, 2017-21
                                                                                                  • Environmentally friendly packaging is the most widespread ethical claim
                                                                                                    • Figure 16: New product launches in the UK food and drink market, by selected ethical claims, 2017-21 (sorted by 2020)
                                                                                                  • Leading soft drinks brands switch to recycled plastic
                                                                                                    • Figure 17: Evian Natural Mineral Water, 2020
                                                                                                    • Figure 18: Examples of juice drink and squash launches highlighting their use of recycled plastic prominently on-pack. 2020
                                                                                                  • Supermarkets use salvaged ocean plastic for fish packaging
                                                                                                    • Brands and retailers take steps to reduce plastic use
                                                                                                      • Figure 19: Tesco Finest Red Velvet Cake, 2021
                                                                                                    • Brands continue to reduce packaging size to eliminate unnecessary air
                                                                                                      • Figure 20: Young’s Chip Shop Omega 3 Fish Fillets in Crisp Bubbly Batter, 2021
                                                                                                    • Brands and retailers alter products’ shapes to require less packaging
                                                                                                      • Move away from black plastic continues
                                                                                                        • A few brands explore plant-based plastics
                                                                                                          • Figure 21: Innocent Guavas, Pineapples & Apples Smoothie, 2021
                                                                                                        • Animal welfare claims appear on 6% of food and drink launches in 2020
                                                                                                          • Tesco and Morrisons introduce ‘affordable’ high welfare certifications for chicken
                                                                                                            • Ben & Jerry’s makes its animal welfare credentials more tangible
                                                                                                              • Figure 22: Ben & Jerry’s Rain-Dough Cookie Dough Twist Ice Cream, 2021
                                                                                                            • Rhug Estate highlights the environmental and animal welfare benefits of organic
                                                                                                              • Figure 23: Rhug Estate Organic Beef Mince, 2020
                                                                                                            • Sustainable claims feature on 14% of food and drink launches in 2020
                                                                                                              • Trend for re-using surplus ingredients continues
                                                                                                                  • Figure 24: Flawsome Orange Juice, 2021
                                                                                                                • New vodka brand allows shoppers to track its tree-planting initiative
                                                                                                                  • Figure 25: Sapling Vodka, 2020
                                                                                                                • People-related ethical claims appear on 6% of launches in 2020
                                                                                                                  • Retailers expand their range of Fairtrade-certified own-label products
                                                                                                                    • Moo Free highlights its ethical hiring practices
                                                                                                                      • Figure 26: Moo Free Oscar the Bear Chocolate, 2020
                                                                                                                    • Carbon neutral claims are extremely rare
                                                                                                                      • Meat/dairy-free brands highlight their lower carbon emissions
                                                                                                                        • Figure 27: The Unbelievable ALT Tender Beefless Pieces, 2020
                                                                                                                        • Figure 28: Oatly Garlic & Cucumber Creamy Oat Spread, 2021
                                                                                                                      • Lidl and Wyke Farms team up to develop carbon neutral cheese
                                                                                                                        • More companies go carbon negative
                                                                                                                        • Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                                                                                          • Brands and retailers publicise their efforts to tackle food poverty
                                                                                                                            • The Co-op promotes its value range as allowing people to shop ethically on a budget
                                                                                                                              • Kellogg’s focuses on feel-good aspects of healthiness and ethics
                                                                                                                                • Various brands emphasize their sustainable credentials
                                                                                                                                  • Brands urge consumers to switch to meat/dairy substitutes to help the planet…
                                                                                                                                    • …including Oatly’s controversial contribution
                                                                                                                                      • Bottled water brands highlight their care for the environment
                                                                                                                                        • Inch’s Cider calls out local sourcing and use of green energy
                                                                                                                                          • Brewdog promotes its attainment of carbon negative status
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 29: Facebook post by Brewdog promoting its carbon negative status, 2021
                                                                                                                                          • Hellmann’s links up with Channel 4 on food waste campaign
                                                                                                                                            • Supporting British farms…
                                                                                                                                              • …and pubs
                                                                                                                                                • Maltesers pledges support for new mothers’ mental health
                                                                                                                                                  • Various brands urge consumers to build a better world post-pandemic
                                                                                                                                                  • The Consumer – Key Takeaways

                                                                                                                                                    • Eight in ten adults have bought food/drink with ethical certification
                                                                                                                                                      • Animal welfare and the environment are important issues to many
                                                                                                                                                        • Price is less of barrier than previously
                                                                                                                                                          • Need to explain more about ethical certifications
                                                                                                                                                            • Strong feel-good factor about ethical products, but many doubt they can make a difference
                                                                                                                                                              • Eating seasonally is widely seen as an environmentally friendly act
                                                                                                                                                              • Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Behaviour

                                                                                                                                                                • Consumers’ increased environmental consciousness adds urgency for companies to be seen as proactive on sustainability
                                                                                                                                                                  • Companies must prove to consumers their ethical credentials
                                                                                                                                                                    • Find ways to tap into consumers’ resolve to cut back on food waste
                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 30: Onken Natural Set Yogurt, UK, 2021
                                                                                                                                                                      • Localism trend boosts independent shops
                                                                                                                                                                        • Growth in community spirit makes it essential for brands to demonstrate their support for their own local communities
                                                                                                                                                                        • Awareness and Purchase of Food and Drink with Ethical Certifications

                                                                                                                                                                          • Eight in ten adults have bought food/drink with ethical certifications
                                                                                                                                                                            • Purchasing is high even among the less well-off
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 31: Awareness and purchase of food and drink with ethical certifications, 2019 and 2021
                                                                                                                                                                          • Awareness and Purchase of Food and Drink with Ethical Certifications by Type

                                                                                                                                                                            • Free range is the most widely bought ethical certification
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 32: Awareness and purchase of food and drink with ethical certifications, by type, 2021
                                                                                                                                                                            • Purchasing rises for numerous certifications
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 33: Purchase of food/drink with ethical certifications, by type, 2019 and 2021
                                                                                                                                                                            • Six in ten adults buy three or more ethical certifications
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 34: Repertoire of ethical food/drink certifications bought, 2021
                                                                                                                                                                          • Reasons for Buying Ethical Food and Drink

                                                                                                                                                                            • Animal welfare and environmental concerns are neck and neck as top motivations for buying
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 35: Reasons for buying ethical food and drink, 2019 and 2021
                                                                                                                                                                            • Consumers’ interest in animal welfare does not always translate to buying
                                                                                                                                                                              • Need for makers of organic products to focus more on the animal welfare aspects
                                                                                                                                                                                • Many people see the environment as important, but this does not always benefit certified products
                                                                                                                                                                                  • A desire to avoid unwanted substances motivates 29% of buyers
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 36: Nouveaux Champs Planète Végètal carrots, 2021
                                                                                                                                                                                • Barriers to Buying Ethical Food and Drink

                                                                                                                                                                                  • Price is the principal barrier, but less so than previously
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 37: Barriers to buying ethical food and drink, 2019 and 2021
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Explain to consumers in more detail what the different schemes entail
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Ethical Issues Deemed Most Important for Food and Drink Companies to Prioritise

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Animal welfare is seen as top priority by 48% of adults
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 38: Ethical issues deemed most important for food and drink companies to prioritise, April 2021
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Consumers’ focus on animal welfare does not always translate to buying
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Good opportunities for products supporting both animal and human welfare
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 39: International examples of products referencing both high animal welfare and fair pay for farmers, 2017-21
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Need to educate consumers on the multiple aspects of sustainability
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Need to strike a balance between reducing packaging use and avoiding food waste
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Worker/farmer welfare is valued by 37% of adults
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Behaviours Relating to Ethical Food and Drink

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Strong feel-good factor around ethical food and drink
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 40: Behaviours relating to ethical food and drink, 2021
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Promote healthy products with a ‘good for you, good for the planet’ message
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Portray ethical certifications as enhancing the treat aspects of indulgent products
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Need to reassure consumers that their actions make a difference
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 41: This Isn’t Chicken Dark Soy & Garlic Pieces, 2021
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Larger companies need to make particular efforts to prove their ethical commitments
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Find ways to harness the power of recommendations
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Attitudes towards Ethical Food and Drink

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Seven in ten adults see eating seasonally as helping to reduce environmental footprint
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 42: Attitudes towards ethical food and drink, 2021
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Various options for companies to tap into the consumer interest in seasonality
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Appendix – Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Forecast methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 43: Best- and worst-case forecast of value sales of food and drink with selected leading ethical certifications, 2020-26

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