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At a time when the cost of living is rising, what matters most to consumers?

With the continued rise in the cost of living, many households are feeling the strain on disposable income. The astronomical increase in the price of basic utilities has forced consumers to re-evaluate purchases and expenditure – but when it comes to values versus value what really matters most?

More often than not, goods marked with Fairtrade, organic or environmentally friendly labelling can demand higher prices than their traditional equivalents. Add into that a bit of recycled content or biodegradable packaging then products sold as ‘sustainable’ or more socially responsible can sometimes be more expensive than cheaper alternatives.

However, as companies rightly embrace ESG strategies, the cost of living crunch has forced consumers to look again at what goes into the shopping basket. Many will be forced to prioritise price over principles.

Research from Levercliff, consultants on the food and drink industry, suggests that whilst sustainability remains high on consumers’ list of concerns, this is outstripped by more pressing concerns such as the price of goods.

The research also suggests that in times of financial uncertainty consumers place an emphasis on brand familiarity and may not be willing or able to move to new sustainable products. 

So what does this mean for businesses?

Despite the fact that many consumers are not willing to change their behaviours and are focusing on cost and value over anything else, sustainability does still remain a primary concern for many across all age groups.

If consumers are unable to make sustainable choices due to their budgets, the onus is on companies to make it as easy as possible for customers to change their habits. Working towards a net zero economy can’t be put on hold in the tough times.

It is also critically important for companies to ensure that any sustainability claims they make are accurate. With an increasing number being accused of ‘greenwashing’, the challenge is to successfully embrace consumer concerns whilst at the same time genuinely delivering on environmental commitments and offering products at the right price.

Failing to do so risks the prospect of negative publicity, hefty penalties and the loss of trust and loyalty of customers. It’s a balancing act that businesses need to get right.