Socially Responsible and Environmentally Friendly | C-Store Food Trends
April 19, 2023

Consumers have concerns beyond what goes into the food products they consume. Sure, ingredient composition, nutrient content, taste, and price all still play a vital role in the selection of a food product. Increasingly though, consumers are expecting the brands they purchase from to live up to their standards when it comes to production, processing, and business practices. Consumers understand that they are voting with their dollar, and are eager to put their money behind brands that are committed to making a positive impact and doing no harm.

Two trends in particular that are building steam into the 2020s, as consumers become increasingly educated and connected, are a push for environmentally friendly food production, and socially responsible supply chains. Consumers want to know that their hard earned money is going toward a positive organization – not just a decent product.

Environmentally Friendly Production

As consumers continue to become more aware of and educated about global food production practices, they are also becoming more selective regarding the products they choose for themselves and their families. Nearly half of all consumers, 49% of those included in a recent survey, report having adjusted their food consumption over the past two years, specifically to be more environmentally friendly. Some of the ways that consumers are altering their buying behaviors to support the environment include: selecting more locally-sourced foods; purchasing foods with minimal packaging; and supporting brands that have well-documented environmentally friendly practices in place.

In short, consumers are seeking out brands that match their environmentally friendly values. Brands are capitalizing on this by launching and highlighting environmentally friendly initiatives, including updates to their own products and practices. Another way brands are leaning into this, is by focusing on reduced waste – both in their production processes, and in their product packaging. (Products with minimalist packaging are trending up across categories.)

Brands that are already striving to be positive environmental forces stand to gain market share in the c-store space by continuing to highlight these attributes and initiatives, staying ahead of the curve.

Social Responsibility
On the human side of the equation, consumers are continuing to show concern over the social and ethical impacts of their purchases. Customers are leaning on brands to treat employees, livestock, and natural resources as humanely and responsibly as possible, with real consequences for brands.

Consumer reactions to perceived infractions on these values can be harsh. A robust 30% of consumers worldwide report having boycotted a product or brand completely due to ethical concerns. It’s clear that a significant portion of consumers are aware of the power of their patronage, and are willing to vote with their wallets.

Concerns around the ethics and social impacts of purchasing decisions do not seem to be going anywhere soon, either. Recent reports show that up to 40% of consumers actively seek out brands that strive to treat farmers and laborers in their supply chain fairly. A metric that continues to grow, as traceability and awareness become more common.

This trend also crosses paths with the growing “localvore” trend. Consumers tend to assume that products created locally are more environmentally and socially friendly, as well. This is just part of the reason that consumers are willing to pay a premium for local food products.

As c-stores continue to expand their footprint and their role in the life of the average consumer, the industry continues to invest to meet current trends and needs. Educated consumers are demanding more transparents around food products and ingredients, production standards, and business practices, and brands in the c-store space are responding. Brands that go beyond marketing their products, and lean into marketing their organization and its positive impacts, will stand to gain trust and market share in the years to come.

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