COVID Resurgence Dents Eco-Shopping Habits in China
The topic of sustainability has continued to grow in importance of the last few years, especially in the last 12 months with the impact of climate change affecting people’s everyday lives in many areas of the world. From flooding in Pakistan and the US to wildfires in Spain and Portugal, the summer of 2022 saw one climate-related disaster after another.
However, has the recent resurgence of Covid in China impacted shopper’s attitudes and purchasing behaviours towards sustainability? To answer this question, we will take a look at the results from the latest ‘Who Cares, Who Does?’ (WCWD) survey that has been conducted by Kantar Worldpanel every year since 2019 amongst 3,000 Chinese households.
In 2021 we saw that the group of shoppers who were most concerned with the environment and actively change their behaviour (‘The Green Advocates’) had grown in size and represented 30% of the population. In 2022 this group has decreased in size and now accounts for 26% of the population, a decrease of 6.1m households.
‘The Concerned’ group, who are worried about the environment and plastic waste and are making small steps to change their behaviour, has grown in size. Increased pressure on many households in 2022, such as Covid restrictions and increased cost of living, is impacting certain shoppers’ ability to purchase more sustainable products and resulted in ‘The Green Advocates’ moving into ‘The Concerned’ group. This is evident from the fact that 53% of respondents agreed with the statement “Recently I have found it harder to act sustainably because of other social or economic issues”.
Shoppers who have less environmental concerns, ‘The Non-Committers’ and ‘The Sceptics’ have remained relatively stable in terms of their contribution after seeing a large drop in size in 2021.
More efforts need to be made to raise the awareness of environment issues amongst these groups as well as making it easy for them to act in a more sustainable way without having a significant change in their lifestyle and purchasing preferences.
The gap between intention and action presents a clear opportunity for manufacturers and retailers. Based on responses to the survey we found that 63% of households try to buy products packaged from recycled materials but only 20% regularly avoid buying drinks in plastic bottles. This is due to a number of reasons including the availability of recycled packaging in the category as well as the fact that some households may not be prepared to pay a price premium for these kinds of products.
So how can manufacturers help make it easy for shoppers to shop more sustainably in the current environment with the uncertainty of Covid and increasing pressure on their cost of living? And which types of products should be developed to meet their needs?
In order to answer these questions, we can take a look at what types of sustainable products shoppers are purchasing in China and see how this compares to the global average.
In general, more Chinese shoppers claim to frequently choose sustainable products with locally produced fresh food and personal care products with natural ingredients being the top 2. Products made with less harsh chemicals are also popular with over half of shoppers saying they frequently buy these.
Many household care brands have launched new products which are made from natural ingredients and are less harmful to the environment.
For example, Liby’s Fruit Vingear series of washing up liquid and Chaoneng’s Back to Nature laundry liquid detergent which was launched in Q2 last year and has achieved 2% penetration in the last 12 months.
Within the personal care sector Lux has launched a new product line in the body wash category which is made from plant ingredients and has no additives and a skincare brand called ‘Sisley’ also focuses on natural ingredients and has gained popularity in Tmalls D11 live streaming hosted by LiJiaQi.
The success of these kind of products is determined by their ability to deliver a sustainable message that resonates with shoppers whilst still delivering on performance. With the uncertainity of Covid and rising inflation brands will have to work harder to convince shoppers of the benefit of buying sustainable brands especially if they are positioned at a higher price point.
Live streaming is a great communication vehicle to deliver this message whilst demonstrating the product performance and how well this channel is leveraged will be a key factor in the success of new launches in this area.