By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
With the economy skydiving into never-never land, many analysts have been wondering whether consumers will continue to buy green products, which sometimes cost more or can be harder to find.
At least one report, published this month by The Boston Consulting Group, indicates that consumers will continue to seek out green products, despite the economy.
The BCG report, based on interviews with 9,000 consumers in North America, Europe, China, and Japan and other research, found that consumers bought more green goods in 2008 than they did in 2007 and that many “consumers greatly value the direct benefits that green products offer, such as superior freshness and taste, the promise of safety and health, and savings on energy costs.”
While they are cutting back on big-ticket items, shoppers are reluctant to cut back on certain green products, such as organic foods.
“In fact, when survey participants were asked in which product categories they were willing to trade up (place a higher priority on), they ranked organic foods 20 on a list of 108 product categories – considerably higher than the ranking of 43 they assigned to the category in a similar survey conducted in 2006,” according to the report, Capturing the Green Advantage for Consumer Companies.
The researchers also found that many green living activities intersect with cost-saving measures that make sense to consumers in tight times, such as using low-energy light bulbs, buying local food, vacationing nearer to home, commuting less and eating less meat.
Green consciousness “represents a huge opportunity for smart companies and the business case for green remains compelling even — and, in many cases, especially – in a tough market,” researchers wrote.
But the advisory report, aimed at helping businesses strategize, warned that consumers do not want to pay a green premium unless it is warranted.
“Being green is not a license to charge more. In all the countries we surveyed except China, consumers will pay more for green products, but only if they offer added value. They must taste better; be safer or healthier, or help consumers save money…”
Despite the finding about Chinese buyers, one-third of consumers in the other countries said they would be willing to pay 5 to 10 percent more for green products, when they offered direct benefits.
Companies, though, must still work to win over even green-leaning customers, according to the report. “Many consumers, for instance, complain about the “green ghetto” in the supermarket, where a limited assortment of organic products are crowded together in a low-traffic location.”
The consulting firm recommends that businesses practice what it calls the “4 P’s” — green planning, green processes (practicing what they preach internally), green product offerings and green promotion.
The authors of the BCG report were Joe Manget, a senior partner in the firm’s Toronto office; Catherine Roche, a partner in Dusseldorf; and Felix Munnich, a project leader in the Munich office.
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