Sustainable food — is a consumer trend developing into a market trend?
Social, environmental and ethical aspects have become essential requirements that food has to fulfil. Although many consumers still can’t clearly define sustainability, they are increasingly making sure that the products they buy are organically produced, locally grown or fairly traded. In addition, more and more consumers are saying that they want to spend more money on sustainable products. Sustainability plays a major role for many different consumer groups. Sustainability is often closely associated with people’s traditional quality expectations regarding taste, freshness and health. Sustainability is thus turning from an additional or singular purchasing aspect into an attribute that is merging with people’s quality perceptions and evaluations of products. As a result, sustainability has become a consumer trend.
Although the sales figures for products labelled as sustainable have been rising for many years now, they are still at a low level compared to the market as a whole. There is a big gap between people’s statements that they are willing to buy such products and the actual market figures. For example, the Society for Consumer Research held a survey in 2014 in which 26 per cent of the respondents stated that they deliberately bought fair trade products and spent more money for them. However, according to the Transfair organization, sustainably grown bananas only have a 3.5 per cent market share even though they were the most successful fair-trade product in 2013. A similar gap can be seen in the other sustainable product ranges. This demonstrates that the claims and the actual behaviour of consumers still differ greatly. We can refer to this as a market trend only to a limited extent.
Keynote speaker 2015
As the founder of the Forsa Institute and one of the leading opinion pollsters in Germany, Professor Manfred Güllner knows what consumers think and feel. He will explain why there is often a gap between customer attitudes to sustainability issues and their actual buying behaviour and what industrial companies and the trade can do in order to turn a consumer trend into a market trend.
Prof. Manfred Güllner (born in Remscheid in 1941) studied sociology, social psychology and business administration at the University of Cologne from 1961 to 1967. After graduating, he initially worked as an assistant at the university’s sociology department until switching in 1970 to the infas Institute for Applied Social Sciences in Bonn-Bad Godesberg. infas later served as his model when he founded his own institute, Forsa. Güllner also gained extensive expertise when he worked as the Director of the City of Cologne’s statistical office. In Cologne, Güllner was also in charge of the Board of Elections. In 1984 Manfred Güllner founded his own opinion polling institute, Forsa. This enabled him to make use of the extensive experience he had gathered to date. Forsa was initially based in Cologne and later in Dortmund. Since 1991, Güllner has been researching and working at the heart of Germany’s political life, in Berlin.
For many years now, he has been assessing the political mood in Germany every week for Stern magazine and the RTL television channel. In these polls, Güllner determines which political party people would vote for if national elections were held the following Sunday. Although opinion polling is Güllner’s passion and lets him make headlines, this activity is only one of the institute’s aspects from a business point of view. Forsa also conducts market research for many companies. As a result, Güllner is always well-informed about the business sentiment in Germany and people’s buying behaviour. In 2004 he was appointed an honorary professor of media and communication science at Freie Universität Berlin.
Manfred Güllner is known to most Germans as an opinion pollster, an author and a writer for magazines and newspapers.