Respect for animals is shaping global markets, say researchers

Sheep close-up

Animal-awareness was listed among the top 10 global consumer trends for 2019 in a report by independent market researchers Euromonitor International. Compiled using data from industry, global consumer surveys, expert polls and trade interviews, the document annually reviews fast-moving trends, changing consumer priorities and how shifting consumer behaviour is disrupting business. For 2019 it describes conscious consumption as finally breaking into the mainstream.
Mindful consumers seek to make positive decisions about what they buy and to find solutions to the negative impacts of consumerism on other human beings, animals and the environment. Among these related concerns, the report saw animal welfare most noticeably gaining momentum among consumers. Aware consumers tend to avoid eating meat, and to favour leather- and fur-free clothes and non-animal-derived cosmetics. They are likely to oppose animal testing, farming methods using antibiotics and huge factory farms. These consumers expect animal welfare information to inform their buying choices, and accreditation labels on food and beverages, such as ‘Cruelty-free’, ‘not tested on animals’, ‘free range’ and ‘grass fed / pasture raised’ banners are increasingly influencing purchasing decisions. Almost a third of shoppers now expect their eggs to be free range.
Veganism, once regarded as extreme abstinence, is now being adopted by an increasingly wide range of people, from the health-conscious to those concerned with animal welfare or the environmental impact of industrial meat production. Social media has made veganism cool, and many more people are choosing ‘flexitarianism’, or going ‘vegan’ one meal at a time. With the benefits of cutting back more widely acknowledged, it’s no longer always seen as an all-or-nothing decision. Sales of meat-substitutes and milk-substitutes continue to grow. Even in emerging markets like China, Indonesia and India, which tend to show a deep-rooted perception of meat as good nutrition and a sign of prosperity, young, urban, middle- and high-income consumers are promoting this trend.
Animal welfare concerns were once the domain of ethically-positioned niche producers, but conventional companies are increasingly keen to tap into this growing market. Even mainstream fast-food vendor KFC has launched a Veggie Burger (though not vegan) in Canada. New Zealand, and South Africa. Consumer reviews suggest the taste resembles real chicken. Its faux fried chicken (initially announced as vegetarian, although a vegan option hasn’t been ruled out), featuring the distinctive herbs and spices, is due to be tested in the UK in 2019. Like the Greggs vegan sausage roll, such token offerings are likely to appeal more to ‘flexitarians’ than to win the brand-loyalty of the genuinely conscious consumer, although they might benefit from a parallel increased demand for ‘food on-the-go’.
While around 80% of countries worldwide allow both animal testing of cosmetics and the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, and China’s huge domestic market still legally requires animal testing for imported cosmetics, the global outcry continues to grow. Taiwan’s new ban on animal testing takes effect this year, and in May 2018 the European Parliament, which already has a ban in place, resolved to work towards a global ban. Concerns about cosmetics ingredients has boosted demand for plant-derived substances such as plant extracts, essential oils, xanthan gum and vegetable waxes, while animal-derived ingredients like collagen and lanolin are becoming less popular. Vegan beauty products will be increasingly sought after. More than 20% of consumers polled by Euromonitor said they would choose ‘not tested on animals, cruelty-free and / or 100% vegan’ cosmetics. While companies like Lush have based their business on not using animal derived ingredients, ethical ingredient sourcing is slowly becoming the norm in the beauty industry, with large companies like Unilever seeking the attention of younger, more ethics-conscious shoppers. Like Kat Von D, Unilever-owned Hourglass has reformulated its products to 100% vegan standards, while now-vegan Milk Makeup has launched the first mascara to acknowledge vegan concerns about beeswax; it uses cannabis oil instead.
Even L’Oréal has launched a new line of 100% plant-based salon hair dyes called Botanēa, which it’s controversially labelling ‘vegan’ despite the commitment of the company as a whole to animal testing its products for the Chinese market. This trend of mainstream manufacturers offering higher-welfare alternatives alongside their original products is likely to be replaced by an expectation of better animal welfare standards for all products, and this effect is predicted to extend beyond food and beauty into fashion, home care, furnishing and pet food. In 2018, UK-based internet fashion retailer ASOS announced its intention to phase out products made using feathers and down, mohair, silk, cashmere or bone, teeth or shell, and it has applied the ban to all new stock ordered since May 2018.
The report also highlights a general shift of power from retailer to consumer, with internet consumers increasingly sharing and seeking product information and companies expected to constantly innovate to entice shoppers. Conscious consumers are influential, and the report predicts the trend will continue to spread. With growing consumer affluence and awareness boosting demand for higher welfare, premium products, it advises businesses to invest in animal welfare to add value in today’s highly competitive markets.

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