Activating Sustainability for the Consumer… and the Brand

by Heather

Activating Sustainability for the Consumer… and the Brand

If we learned anything at the recent Natural Products Expo West (and we learned a lot), it’s that sustainability is a major theme in the food and beverage industry. As we note in our Top Five Naturally Trending™ Themes”, consumer awareness and demand for product sustainability have gone far beyond recyclable packaging. And brands are stepping up to the plate, so to speak, by implementing a wide range of sustainability practices such as waste minimization, upcycling, regenerative agriculture and social sustainability.

What do consumers really want?

Sustainability is an easy thing for consumers to say they want, but at the same time, they may not be willing to sacrifice taste, reduce convenience levels, or pay higher prices. So when brands are looking at taking steps toward sustainability practices, it is vital to understand what steps will resonate most with their products’ target markets. Maybe you are looking at switching to a recyclable paper container away from plastic. In this case, it’s vital to check in with your consumers to make sure the change won’t affect their product experience in a negative way. Or maybe you are considering a change in ingredient sourcing to reduce your company’s carbon footprint. If it caused a slight increase in cost, would that alienate your target base?

Enter Implicit Testing…

When companies use the right market research approaches to understand how to shift products toward sustainability, the resulting deep understanding of human behavior will shed light on where to make changes. The InsightsNow Implicit / Explicit Test™ is an effective way to understand, at a deeper level, what shifts toward sustainability will work for consumers. The test assesses whether each person’s reaction is implicit or explicit—and in which direction, and it provides a calibrated classification for each person upon completion of the test. Brands can then see the exact percentage of people who are reacting in a certain way, allowing a quantifiable way to move forward in the best way possible with any proposed sustainability initiatives.

Communicating about Sustainability

Once you’ve landed on what your best path forward will be through your market research, you are then tasked with communicating the change or innovation to your audience in a way that adds value to your brand and explains, quickly and easily, the importance. At this point in product development, you can still use implicit testing to look at your claims, marketing and messaging around sustainability.

In a recent project partnership with 3M for the new Scotch™ Cushion Lock™ Protective Wrap, the team leveraged the Implicit / Explicit Test through our Innovation Center Claims Testing solution. Claims regarding a more sustainable packaging material product were put to the test. The implementation of the implicit testing approach provided a more effective way to gain insight compared to standard scaled metrics traditionally used in many survey research designs. The study uncovered the strongest combination of claims to describe the new, sustainable packaging product—and how to educate the consumer to obtain the change in behavior, while, at the same time, reinforcing 3M’s mission. 3M is committed to “actively contributing to sustainable development through environmental protection, social responsibility, and economic progress.” You can see a case study about this project here, or check out our webinar on this topic.

Why Sustainability is Important

According to, COVID-19 has “prompted consumers to pay more attention to their health and the environment.” And they are actively seeking socially responsible products and products that offer long-term sustainability. Brands cannot ignore this, or they risk alienating customers in today’s world. Brands also need to know how to make moves toward sustainability that are not only helping create a happier and healthier world, they need to know how to make the moves that will mean the most to their target audiences. Using market research, particularly implicit testing and claims testing can help those decisions be the right choices for everyone.