We’re seeing more companies working to differentiate themselves by becoming the champion for a sustainable behavior. For example, Nabisco’s Triscuit® brand has been promoting home gardening by including seeds in the package, based on the strategy that those interested in healthy home-grown foods would also be their target buyer, interested in healthier snacking.
In this year’s Eco Pulse study, we saw some evidence of increasing consumer interest in composting. The number of Americans using composted materials in their gardens surged 12 points this year, up to 26%, and “compostable” came in fourth for the best description to read on a package of disposable plates or cups. Consumer loyalty to some single-use products such as paper plates and towels is down due to environmental concerns that might be obviated by knowing that these products could be composted instead of heading for the landfill. The majority of Americans think that recycling more of what their household uses is most important, and composting is a natural adjunct to recycling. That said, when we tested paper plates with the words “compostable” on the package in focus groups, most of our consumers were skeptical. They kind of didn’t believe the plates would compost and felt pretty certain they didn’t know how to do it themselves or have a facility in their community that could do it for them.
Perhaps what mainstream America needs is a composting champion—a brand or company to come to the front and educate us all about composting. If brands realize that consumer disposal of their products is a significant contributor to their products’ environmental footprint, they could develop compostable products and promote the practice. There’s also an opportunity for an established brand or company to offer attractive, practical, affordable composters. This would help signal that composting is now a mainstream activity.
We know consumers are, in fact, becoming more interested in knowing about the environmental records of the companies they buy from, and are looking to companies to take on responsibility for doing the right thing by the environment (in part, so consumers don’t have to take it on themselves.) So there may be an opportunity for a brand to add this to their story, take consumers by the hands and take responsibility together. Composting could be the next recycling…and whomever leads the charge will reap the benefits.