During her talk at the 2015 International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) International Dairy Show, titled Healthy Beverage Trends Can Bring More Shoppers to the Dairy Case, Gilbert said 46% of shoppers are “healthy beverage shoppers.”
EcoFocus has been undertaking a survey for the last five years that saw it interview 4,000 Americans, aged 18 to 65, each year.
The dairy industry in particular may be able to benefit from the statistics gleaned from this research, said Gilbert.
“You’re dealing with consumers perceptions,” she said. “We can talk to them a lot about science and send them facts, but it is perceptions that we have to deal with when we bring products into the market place.”
Here are five things we learned from Gilbert’s segment at the International Dairy Show 2015.
1) Healthy beverage shoppers have money
Compared with most grocery shoppers, healthy beverage shoppers are quite well off.
Gilbert said 71% live in households earning $50,000 or more annually. About 48% are millennials and 41% have children at home.
“They are the ones who are driving sales growth for value added beverages today,” she said. “They do see value in these products and they’re willing to put more of their pocket book behind those products.”
2) Social and environmental responsibility is necessary
Healthy beverage consumers want socially and environmentally responsible companies.
Sixty percent said they avoid purchasing from companies when they learned they are not socially responsible and 55% avoid companies that are not environmentally responsible.
Gilbert said it is hard to win these customers back once they have been failed here.
“They will reward those that help them sift through the clutter,”
she said of letting customers know about how the company is socially and environmentally responsible. “It’s about talking in their language, not yours. They will avoid you if you don’t act responsibly.”
Approximately 86% of these customers believe little changes they make can add up to big things for the environment.
8 ways to seize these opportunities
1) Recognize healthy beverage shoppers’ priorities and make them your company’s priorities.
2) Positive nutrition, less sugar.
3) Recognize that personal health is connected with eco-friendly choices in the consumer’s mind.
4) Don’t leave your story to be told by the website and ads. Create an environment on the package to tell your story.
5) Make eco-friendly choices, innovations and partnerships.
6) Use recyclable and renewable packaging.
7) Think of the packaging as an extension of the ingredient listand ensure it is consistent.
8) Make labels work harder to communicate information shoppers find important.
3) Consistency is essential for customer perception
Companies need to do a better job telling the story of its product in a consistent way on the package.
Consumers want labels that tell them about the nutrients, ingredients and packaging, including how it can be properly recycled.
“We need to align all three of these product attributes if you are going to deliver [to these healthier shoppers],” Gilbert said. “Be very aware of consistency.”
She gave an example of Capri Sun removing high-fructose corn syrup but leaving in other artificial flavors and colors.
Gilbert said these inconsistencies caused parents to start looking at the product with more scrutiny, almost as though the company “put itself in jail.”
4) Functional nutrition, no empty calories
Health-focused consumers place high levels of importance on functional nutrition and do not want empty calories.
Gilbert said 76% want reduced sugar, as an example, along with wanting more antioxidants, calcium and probiotics in their beverages. Citing these on packaging and going beyond “basic nutrition” can help win customers, Gilbert said.
“Remember, they’re using these beverages more and more to replace meals and not just as a snack,” she said.
Gilbert specifically pointed to the dairy industry, calling for addition of more protein- and probiotic-added drinks on the market to appeal to this customer group.
5) Healthier packaging?
While many shoppers may not think about what kind of affect packaging has on the food or drink contained within, healthy beverage shoppers certainly do.
Gilbert said 81% believe packaging can leave “undesirable chemicals” in their beverage and 78% have already changed what they buy to reduce exposure to the beverages in this kind of packaging.
Approximately 56% of these healthy beverage shoppers believe plastic bottles can leave undesirable chemicals, compared with only 13% who believe this of glass.
“They want alternatives to plastic packaging,” Gilbert said. “They’re telling us that they’re trying to buy beverages that use less plastic and that beverage companies need to do better job to providing alternatives to plastic packaging.
“This particular segment of consumers is a trend setting segment and is going to lead the way for other shoppers.”