Brits and Germans Want to Shop Sustainably, but Inflation Is a Barrier

Food and drink purchases are mainly led by price in the U.K. and taste in Germany.

April 21, 2022

Sustainable Recycled Shipping Box

LONDON—Rising inflation is a barrier to adopting more sustainable shopping practices for British and German consumers, according to research by qualtiplope.

The research found that only 1 in 5 shoppers in the U.K. and 1 in 4 in Germany are making product choices that prioritize sustainable packaging. German shoppers are more likely to prioritize buying products with local ingredients; 39% compared to 19% in the U.K.

Despite these low numbers, British and German consumers strongly agree that protecting the environment is one of the most important issues of our times and, as a result, want to shop more sustainably. Half of consumers in each market check for sustainable ingredients on packaging and pay attention to the displays/information shown on shelves, according to the data.

However, with fast rising inflation and the worst cost of living crisis in a century, the decision about which food and drink brands to purchase is ultimately led by price for the majority (79%) of British shoppers. In Germany, it's about taste (70%) and then price (69%).

Quantilope's survey finds that today most people want to actively reduce waste and, as a result, their climate footprint, with 1 in 3 British shoppers saying they are more likely to buy products that have sustainable packaging (similar to German shoppers). German shoppers are more concerned about plastic, with 58% of them identifying as having a “zero-waste attitude.”

Around three quarters of shoppers actively attempt to reduce waste (77% in the U.K. and 71% in Germany), and more than half (51% in both countries) plan to buy less plastic. Some plastic packaging is inevitable, and one-third of survey respondents claim to separate waste for recycling. In the U.K. and Germany, 34% are even willing to pay more taxes if they are used for environmental protection purposes, though 39% are not, and 27% are neutral.

One-third of shoppers (42% in Germany) are so concerned about plastic pollution that they do more than anyone else to reduce plastic in their purchases, separate waste and recycle the plastic they do sometimes have to buy. Quantilope identified this group as “Waste Warriors,” and they are typically within the age bracket of 40 to 49 years, university educated, small city or sub-urban dwellers and earn a slightly higher income than average. They strongly believe that protecting the environment is one of the most important issues of our time.

More than half of shoppers check the ingredients on product packages (56% in the U.K. and 53% in Germany) and in-store information and displays (53% in the U.K. and 49% in Germany).

One-third are so rigorous about what's in their purchases that they check for certifications on the package (33% in the U.K. and 39% in Germany) and look for direct sustainability claims (34% and 35% respectively). Quantilope called this group “Ingredient Inspectors,” and they are primarily focused on the content of the food that they buy and choose vegan and vegetarian products.

Ingredient Inspectors are more likely than other segments to buy local, believing that this can have a positive influence on the planet. While they are concerned about the planet, they are not avid recyclers, being more skewed to concerns about sustainability and health. They want to ensure that what they buy is healthy and sustainable—organic, natural and antibiotic and chemical free. Money isn't a barrier, but time and effort is, says quantilope.

“Brands that will be best placed to win in the future, recognize that not all consumers are the same and have different attitudes around sustainability. They can't use a one-size-fits all approach. They need to address the sustainability concerns of consumers, tailor their approach and communicate what they do clearly and without making them pay too much of a premium," said Peter Aschmoneit, CEO and Co-Founder of quantilope.

Convenience retailers are turning to sustainable packaging to keep food and drinks fresh and warm. Learn more in the NACS Magazine article “Package Deal,” published in the January 2022 issue.

More than half of all convenience store customers (54%) say they’d like to see more recycling at their local c-store, according to NACS data. NACS offers a toolkit in partnership with the Can Manufacturers Institute on the value of can and bottle recycling, which offers tips and suggestions for improving current practices, how to effectively communicate the goals of the program with staff and customers, as well as a checklist to help retailers reduce contamination in their recycling bins.

Register to attend the 2022 NACS Convenience Summit Europe, which takes place May 31 through June 2 in Berlin. Over the three-day summit, attendees will be immersed in the city’s retail landscape through expert-guided store tours—the Ideas 2 Go tours.

Listen to the Convenience Matters podcast episode “Berlin’s Thriving Convenience Retail Future” to hear more about what is happening in the Berlin market, including technology innovations surrounding tobacco products and shrinkage, how Germany is dealing with its own labor shortage issue and hydroponic farming inside stores.