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It's Easy Being Green

June 14, 2010
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A new survey designed to examine consumer attitudes toward environmentally friendly products reveals that four of the top 10 "green brands" in the United States also are supermarket store brands, suggesting that cash-strapped consumers unwilling to sacrifice their green ideals found a solution in eco-friendly private label.

A new survey designed to examine consumer attitudes toward environmentally friendly products reveals that four of the top 10 "green brands" in the United States, including Whole Foods (No. 2), Trader Joe's (No. 4) and Publix (No. 8), are also supermarket store brands, suggesting that cash-strapped consumers unwilling to sacrifice their green ideals found a solution in eco-friendly private label products.

Over the past year, said Russ Meyer, chief strategy officer at San Francisco-based Landor Associates (one of three WPP agencies involved in the fifth annual ImagePower Green Brands Survey), "I think the winning combination was green brands that also provide or are perceived to provide a good value, i.e. store brands." He also told PL Buyer, "As smart retailers that have figured out how to provide great products at a good value become more and more sustainable, I expect [both retailers and their brands] to become a formidable force in the green brands space," as they leverage eco-friendly synergies between the store and the private label program.

The remainder of the top 10 green brands in the United States includes Burt's Bees, Tom's of Maine, Google, Aveeno, SC Johnson, Microsoft and Ikea (Aveeno and Microsoft are new this year).

Based on online interviews conducted Feb. 27 to March 24, the report also revealed that although concern about the environment - and climate change in particular - is growing, 79 percent of U.S. consumers said they're more worried about the economy. Still, 35 percent said they expect to spend more on green products in the coming year than they did last year, a slight decrease from 2009. Not surprisingly, the report continued, consumers in United States as well as most other developed countries said cost was the biggest hurdle to going green.

The report also revealed that the majority consumers around the world - more than 60 percent - prefer to buy from environmentally responsible companies. In fact, "environmentally conscious" is the fourth-most important attribute (behind only "good value," "trustworthy" and "cares about customers") cited by survey respondents, making it "a fundamental attribute," said Meyer.

"In the United States," added Scott Siff, executive vice president of Washington-based Penn Schoen Berland, another WPP unit involved in the survey, "75 percent of consumers say that it is somewhat or very important to them that the brands they buy come from green companies," slightly fewer than last year. He added, "While the economy has driven down the priority of green for consumers, we can expect that as the recovery continues, the importance of green will come roaring back."

In terms of specific steps consumers expect manufacturers to take, survey respondent in every country said reducing toxins is most important, making it "the cost of entry" for most brands. But after that, opinions varied by country. For example, while U.S. consumers listed using recycled materials as the second-most important duty of green-minded manufacturers, consumers in drought-plagued Australia, Brazil, China and India cited water conservation, while Brits were more concerned with reducing unnecessary packaging.

"Local values like these should be kept in mind when companies are developing strategies to communicate the 'greenness' of their brands," said Mindy Romero, Landor's director of public relations.

Another interesting trend revealed by the report is the growing importance of so-called "helper brands" that provide useful information to consumer, said Annie Longsworth, global sustainability practice leader at New York-based Cohn & Wolfe, another WPP unit involved in the survey.

"While preference for brands that are 'in me, on me, around me' is still prevalent," she explained, "consumers also value brands that make going green easier for them through online tools, tips and other forms of engagement through communication."

For more information, visit www.landor.com.

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