The market for ethically and locally produced goods is growing…but who’s reacting?

Last month, we asked Canadians some questions about their purchasing behaviour and whether they might be willing to spend more for ethically produced products.  The findings were released earlier today.

We focused specially on locally grown food and groceries and ethically produced products. Our objective was to quantify attitudes and behaviour that we believed have been evolving  in recent years – a move towards ethical consumerism.

The findings were not that surprising.  A majority of Canadians are willing to pay more for locally produced groceries and a majority said they have discussed the merits of buying locally produced products with their friends or family in the past year.

Using the data, we segmented Canadian consumers into four groups based on their intentions, self-identity, and behaviour.  These groups are: indifferent, conditional, adopting, and committed ethical consumers.

Not surprising, Canadian consumers were most likely to be “conditional ethical consumers.”  These individuals may or may not self-identify as an ethical consumer but they said they will, at times, spend more for either locally grown groceries or ethically made products.

For retailers, food producers, and restaurants, the key finding in this study is that only 10% of Canadian consumers are completely disengaged from or as we describe them “indifferent” to ethical consumerism.  This means that there is a huge market in Canada for products, particularly food products, that are grown locally and made ethically.

Demographically, the trends are instructive.  Women, who are the primary household grocery shoppers, said they’d spend more on locally produced groceries than men (Women $15.4 mean vs. men $11.7 mean).  Moreover, the millennial generation were more likely to be ethical consumers – albeit by smaller margins and degrees.

The marketplace is changing and there is money to be made by retailers and producers who are ethical, socially responsible, and have clearly defined reputations as such.  The problem, as our past research has shown, is that most consumers can’t separate the ethical companies from the bunch.  Brands and companies have a lot of work to do to communicate their values to consumers if they are going to reap the benefits of changing consumer attitudes.

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.  He’s an avid road cyclist.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248



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