There was an interesting reaction to the recent report that organic food holds nary a nutritional edge over regular fare: It did little to dent the enthusiasm of organic mavens because most of them don't buy the stuff for that reason but, rather, because it carries fewer pesticides and because organic farmers raise their crops sustainably.
In a similar way, the subtext of a new report on "green" spending by U.S. consumers may be more interesting than its headline's conclusion: "Organic Buying, Other Behaviors Have Gone Mainstream – But Green Purchasing Still Faces Price Barriers."
The consumers surveyed said they're less willing to pay more for the most environmentally benign products in their categories, according to new findings by GfK Roper in its latest Green Gauge report. Just 42 percent say they are willing to pay more for a "green" car, for instance, down from 62 percent in 2008. And only 60 percent say they'd be willing to pay more for energy-efficient light bulbs, down from 70 percent.
GfK's researchers concluded that there are two main factors makings Americans less willing to pay more for green goods. First, consumers perceive that prices are already higher for "green" and organic products, and they're in penny-pinching mode so can't afford them. And, second, many Americans are skeptical about the environmental claims on green and organic goods.
But what's more interesting is the extent to which American consumers have accepted the premise that they want to and need to be buying green goods as much as possible and the attention that they pay to the environmental chops of a product or brand.
"We test many attitudinal statements in our research both in the U.S. and around the globe," Diane Crispell, GFK's director of consulting, told Marketing Daily. "And the one that comes up strongest is, 'Companies need to be environmentally responsible.' So this is absolutely a consumer expectation for all brands."
In fact, what this research might suggest for brands is that, if they do a better job of making their products and services truly sustainable and then communicating that attribute more credibly to American consumers, their target audience is likely to be very responsive — even if they're still feeling the pinch.