Green Buying Behaviour: What Counts Most for Chinese Shoppers?

In Euromonitor’s survey of global buying behaviour, Chinese shoppers were the most interested in green aspects of the offer – perhaps, we conjecture that this is linked to the growing interest in food safety.

Key findings:

  • “Fair trade”, “green/environmentally friendly” and “organic” mattered strongly to 82%, 81% and 72% of respondents, respectively; the highest levels among all countries.
  • Sustainability and local production were less important issues, but were more highly regarded in China than in the developed markets, with 68% and 54% of Chinese respondents, respectively, considering these factors important.
  • Women were found to be more environmentally aware than men, with more female respondents than males attributing importance to each of the listed factors.
  • In general, the youngest age group attributed the least importance to green factors, while those aged between 30 and 59 scored highest.
  • 83% of those aged 30-44 and 45-59 deemed “green/environmentally friendly” to be an important purchasing criteria, compared to 75% of those aged 15-29.
  • “Organic” mattered most to those aged 45-59 (78%), while only 59% of those aged 15-29 deemed this an important purchasing factor.
  • Those working part-time were most likely to consider all factors to be important, with the exception of “supports local communities”, which scored slightly higher for those working full-time.

Food safety issues fuel demand for “safer” foods

The growing importance of environmentally friendly, organic and sustainably produced products is not surprising, given the high number of high-profile incidents linked to the unconventional use of pesticides and other dangerous ingredients as food additives in recent years. For example, China acknowledged 18 outbreaks of food-related clenbuterol poisoning between 1998 and 2007, and during the milk scandal of 2008, six babies died and 300,000 were made ill after consuming infant formula contaminated with melamine.

More recently in April 2011, 40 tonnes of beansprouts were found to have been treated with sodium nitrite and urea, as well as antibiotics and the plant hormone 6-benzyladenine; while in March 2011, pork that glowed blue under kitchen lights was found to be contaminated by a phosphorescent bacteria.

China’s fledgling green movement

Partly owing to these food safety concerns, and partly as a result of efforts by foreign companies to aggressively market their green credentials, environmental awareness has grown considerably in China in recent years, as illustrated by the survey findings.

Although some experts claim that there is a wide gap in China between people’s claims and actual sustainable behaviour, it is clear from the survey results that shoppers are taking an increased interest in green consumerism and that there is potential for future development in this area over time.

Despite China being the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the country has seen a surge in environmental NGOs in the past 15 years. The government allowed them to legally operate in 1994, on condition that they agree not to focus on certain subjects or target a specific factory. There are now said to be more than 3,000 environmental NGOs in the country. This has helped to considerably raise public awareness of environmental issues and has led to a rise in mass protests against environmental pollution.

China: “How important are the following factors/descriptors to you when considering purchasing a product or service?”, by gender

China purchasing factors

Source: Euromonitor International

China: “How important are the following factors/descriptors to you when considering purchasing a product or service?”, by work status

China purchasing factors in products

Source: Euromonitor International

About Strategy Briefings

It is part of a series of Strategy Briefings summarising global trends and then describe the impact of the findings in eight markets (France, Germany, UK, Brazil, India, China, USA, Japan) from the Annual Study and provides unique strategic insight from Euromonitor’s most experienced industry analysts into the why behind behaviour and how we anticipate this will impact on future market trends, enriched by extensive desk research and market info

About Euromonitor International’s Annual Study

Euromonitor International’s Annual Study surveyed 16,000 consumers of all ages (15-65+) in 8 mature and developing markets in July and August 2011, questioning respondents on the following themes: health and wellness, food and drink, technology, shopping and leisure, personal traits and values. For more information on Euromonitor’s survey findings, please see the Survey page on Passport.