Global market research company Euromonitor International has unveiled the top 10 global consumer trends to watch in 2019. With increased purchasing power, empowered consumers are pushing brands to embrace their values. Connected consumers are finding the joy in disconnecting. Older consumers want to feel and be treated as younger. The supporting report provides an overview of the trends for 2019 and the implications for business.
The top 10 global consumer trends in 2019 are:
1. Age Agnostic - Boundaries of old age are shifting. As people live longer and take better care of themselves, older consumers feel and want to be treated as younger.
2. Back to Basics for Status - Shoppers are searching for authentic products and experiences, moving away from overt materialism to simplicity as well as from generic to higher quality products.
3. Conscious Consumer - What used to be the domain of ethically-positioned, niche producers is now being embraced by conventional companies through higher welfare products.
4. Digitally Together - As our digital capabilities and comfort usingnew technologies grows, so will the potential of what can be created or experienced together, but remotely.
5. Everyone’s an Expert - Whereas previously shoppers relied on a certain brand or information source, now companies must constantly innovate to entice more inquisitive shoppers.
6. Finding My JOMO - The Fear Of Missing Out has now given place to the Joy Of Missing Out. Consumers want to protect their mental wellbeing, disconnecting from technology and prioritizing what they truly want and enjoy doing.
7. I Can Look After Myself - As people become more self-sufficient, they take preventative measures against illness, unhappiness and discomfort without consulting a professional.
8. I Want a Plastic-free World - The push for a plastic-waste-free society has gained momentum, creating a virtuous circle where businesses gain by improving sustainability.
9. I Want it Now! - Consumers seek instant gratification and frictionless experiences that mesh with their lifestyles, allowing them to dedicate more time to their professional or social lives.
10. Loner Living - More people – especially older consumers – across the world break the stigma of living alone and embrace their independent lifestyles.
Spotlight on ‘I Want a Plastic-free World
Taking a closer look at the background to ‘I want a plastic-free world’, the push for a plastic-free society continues to gain momentum, and in 2019, consumer desire for a plastic-free world will grow, as the ‘Blue Planet Effect’ shines a light on the plastic-based waste products that end up polluting the natural world. Awareness is encouraging people to take action, through awareness campaigns and grass-roots conservation projects.
Ubiquitous Plastic Packaging, Low Recycling Rates and a Throw-away Culture
Euromonitor International estimates that 63% of global packaging across the food, beverage, beauty, home care and pet food industries is currently made from plastic. Plastic has become the preferred material for a range of reasons including its versatility and durability and has significantly contributed to reduction in food waste globally.
But the rate at which this vast quantity of plastic packaging is recovered, recycled and re-used once its purpose has been served, is far from optimal and this is at the heart of the trend. There is a widespread lack of consumer understanding about what can and can’t be recycled, partly due to little standardisation in pack labelling across countries and even individual localities. Further, recycling rates vary hugely by region and country as awareness, incentives and capacity to treat plastic waste differ widely.
SourceMuch of the Western world’s plastic waste has been shipped to China for treatment and re-purposing, but the Chinese government’s decision to end this trade in 2018 will lead many Western nations to rethink their recycling policies. In Europe, Germany has high recyclability rates, with deposit return schemes for plastic bottles and efficient municipal recycling programmes contributing to a reduction in plastic waste. However, many countries do not have the infrastructure, resources or indeed the political will to put a similar system in place. To compound the waste issue, we live in a throw-away society where on-the-go food and beverage productare becoming increasingly common as people try to manage their busy lives and seek convenient solutions.
Consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly and recyclable products
Nevertheless, now consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to issues of plastic waste and this is impacting their shopping habits. The proportion of those willing to pay more for packaged food and fresh food which is environmentally conscious or eco-friendly has risen over the past two years. Similarly, the proportion of those who feel that recyclable packaging is an influential feature in beverage products has also grown.
Response to I Want a Plastic-Free World
Globally, action is being taken with the goal of achieving a plastic-free world. As well as individual and group initiatives from grass-roots projects to NGO drives, brands are also realising the pivotal role that they play and are galvanising.
One example of industry helping reduce the negative impact of plastic is Swedish furniture giant IKEA. The global force is phasing out oil-based plastics, committing to making all products from recycled materials by August 2020, and phasing out single-use plastic products, such as plastic straws, plates and cups from its stores and restaurants by 2020. To help the company achieve these goals, IKEA has invested in a plastic recycling plant in the Netherlands. With 363 stores worldwide, a company such as IKEA has the potential to bring large-scale impact and set industry trends in sustainability practices for others to follow, both companies and individual consumers.
Corona Extra (Mexico): plant-based six-pack rings
Corona Extra, ranked among the top 10 lager brands globally, has been piloting a plastic-free multipack ring in Mexico since the start of 2019, with plans to roll this out to the UK.
The new six-pack rings are made from plant-based biodegradable fibres, which are designed to break down into nonharmful organic waste if left in the environment. The brand acknowledges that, while many plastics are often recyclable, the reality is that much of this plastic ends up being discarded rather than recycled, thus polluting the natural environment and harming wildlife. Therefore, they decided to prioritise plastic-free solutions such as this over the use of plastic rim-applied carriers.
Meanwhile in India, Infosys, a major global IT consulting company, pledged to ensure its campuses would be free of non-recyclable plastics, as well as reducing the per capita generation of plastic waste by 50%, both by 2020. The company has cited PET water bottles, plastic bags, sachets, toiletries and bin liners as being the types of items to be replaced with more sustainable materials as part of the pledge. As the second largest Indian IT company, with a workforce of over 200,000 globally, and with a range of campuses including the world’s largest corporate university across a 337-acre site in Mysore, Karnataka, Infosys has the potential to make a significant contribution to the fight against plastic pollution and instil positive habits in consumers in a country that contributes significantly to the global plastic waste issue.
Expert view: Aiming instead for a plastic waste-free world?
Rosemarie Downey, Global Head of Packaging Research, Euromonitor International
Plastic has never been such a talking point of consumer concern and set to be an even bigger consumer focus in 2019. The durability of plastic packaging, noted among its strengths, is being scrutinised because of plastic’s polluting presence, post-consumer use, as waste in the global environment. Notable NGO and legislative initiatives targeting plastic have pushed plastic high up the public agenda. Some retailers are making plastic-free commitments whilst brands and packagers are pledging to go further on re-use, recycled and recyclable packaging.
It is important not to overlook plastic’s valuable contributions. It’s used in medicine, construction and transportation. There are also inherent protective and resource-efficient benefits afforded by plastic in preventing food waste. Rather than a wholesale ‘plasticfree’ target, perhaps a ‘plastic waste-free’ or an overall waste-free world should be the goal. There is a need to adopt a circular economy approach and harness the current spotlight on plastic as a positive means to progress development. Brands designing out surplus ensuring plastic recovery, recyclability and re-use, is a start.
Optimised waste management infrastructures and a greater consumer understanding of plastic handling postuse is also necessary.
The desire for a plastic-free world is largely consumer-led and will gain further momentum in 2019 and beyond. As the conversation moves on, understanding of plastics’ various uses in modern society will increase, and the emphasis will be placed on responsible use, including recovery, recycling and re-use. Increased consumer understanding will also help to police so-called ‘greenwashing’, helping to expose false eco-friendly claims. While plastic alternatives, such as sea-weed water pods instead of plastic water bottles, will continue to be developed, ways of repurposing plastics will also be focused on, and the wave of corporate pledges on recycling/ recyclability are a positive step.
Already we are seeing increasing momentum behind the circular economy, often at a grass-roots level, with plastic packaging waste being collected and repurposed continuously, and this is likely to continue in 2019. In the Netherlands, a cycle highway made from recycled plastic was recently unveiled, while in India, start-ups such as Banyan Nation exemplify how partnerships between small private enterprise, government authorities and multinational corporations can lead to valuable solutions.
Consumers will increasingly use their wallets to protest about irresponsible use of plastic, which could in turn create a virtuous circle where industry, from food and beverages to beauty and personal care manufacturers and beyond, stand to gain by improving sustainability.
YVY, a home care brand launched in 2018 in Brazil, is attempting to make the way consumers clean their homes more sustainable. The brand has designed a capsule system, like a coffee-pod, for cleaning products. Consumers sign up to a monthly subscription box, containing capsules delivered to their door. They are then inserted into reusable bottles with nozzles to spray and clean various items and surfaces. Once the capsule containing the cleaning product is empty, consumers can post the empty pods back to YVY free of charge to be recycled and reused. The system allows for a significant reduction in the amount of water used in the cleaning process and hence, the amount of plastic packaging. With a range of products for degreasing, dishwashing and multi-purpose cleaning, the company has already seen sales success and hopes to create a ‘green cleaning’ segment within the Brazilian home care industry.
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