The NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business and IRI® partnered to expand on research from the 2021 Sustainable Market Share Index™, an annual report examining consumer purchases of sustainability-marketed consumer packaged goods (CPG). Highlights from the latest research include:

 Growth through the COVID-19 pandemic
• In the face of unprecedented CPG growth in 2020 (+11% versus 2019), sustainability-marketed products outperformed conventionally marketed products across 36 categories and grew +0.7 points to 16.8% of purchases.

 E-commerce trends
• Moreover, in 75% of the categories examined, sustainability-marketed products performed better online than in-store.
• In 2020, the e-commerce CPG share for sustainability-marketed products grew 65% versus 2019, 7 points higher than conventionally marketed products. 

Demographic and geographic findings
•  Millennial, upper-income, college-educated and urban cohorts are more likely to buy sustainability-marketed products.
• Baby boomer, Gen X, upper- and middle-income, college-educated and urban cohorts account for the bulk of the sustainable dollars spent.

“Despite significant price premiums, sustainability-marketed products grew far faster than conventionally branded players and had lower price sensitivity in two-thirds of categories examined,” said Randi Kronthal-Sacco, senior scholar, marketing and corporate outreach, NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business. “Our research with IRI tells us that even during unpredictable and financially unstable times, sustainability is still an important factor in purchase decisions.”

“Generational differences can be seen in sustainability definitions, attitudes and purchase behaviors. Brands and retailers must be able to optimize packaging, labeling, websites and messaging to reach sustainably focused audiences most effectively,” said Larry Levin, executive vice president, consumer and shopper marketing, IRI.