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IRI study shows half of consumers consider environmental issues when shopping

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO Approximately 50 percent of U.S. consumers consider at least one “green” factor in selecting consumer packaged goods items and choosing where to shop for those products, according to a recently released survey conducted by Information Resources, Inc.

The 22,000 U.S. consumers surveyed were asked to determine the impact of four key sustainability features in their product and store selection—organic, eco-friendly products, eco-friendly packaging and fair treatment of employees and suppliers. One-fifth of those surveyed were determined to be “sustainability driven,” taking at least two sustainability factors into account when making their selections.

“Sustainability has evolved from a niche segment concern to a major factor influencing purchasing and shopping behavior across a sizable consumer base,” stated Andrew Salzman, IRI chief marketing officer. “Our survey indicates that consumers are focused more and more on the social and environmental impact of their CPG purchases, creating a viable and growing U.S. market for sustainable products and packaging with the potential to mirror well-developed markets in Europe and Japan. U.S. retailers and manufacturers are beginning to respond to that demand,” he said.

“Consumers aged 55 and older are the real driving force behind this expansion,” Salzman added. “Generally, with the time to seek out specialty items and the resources to afford premium priced products, aging consumers are a critical target market today. As sustainable products and packaging become more widely available, we anticipate that the market will expand across consumer segments.”

Among the IRI results highlighting the evolution of sustainability factors in consumer decision-making:

  • Approximately 30 percent look for eco-friendly products and packaging in their brand selection;
  • Up to one-quarter of those surveyed consider fair trade practices along with eco-friendly or organic designations in selecting a shopping destination;
  • Nearly 40 percent of consumers search specifically for organic products

“Currently, organic products are scoring extremely well with consumers,” says Salzman. “Benefiting from the winning combination of a ‘better for you’ association and a ‘better for the environment’ attribute, the organic designation has moved to the front of consumer consciousness.”

Once dominated by niche manufacturers and specialty retailers, CPG industry leaders now maintain a sizable stake in the organics market and with leading retailers. This includes Safeway and Kroger with their highly successful organic private label lines. Several leading manufacturers are also beginning to offer organic versions of favorite products, such as Kraft’s organic Wheat Thins and Chips Ahoy.

Among non-food items, the IRI study highlights replacement of chemical-based items with eco-friendly products as an emerging sustainability category. One example is green laundry detergent. Though currently just 2 percent of the total detergent market, the growing demand for biodegradable, non-toxic and plant-based products is reflected in a 66 percent increase in green product sales during the past year within a category that has overall flat sales.

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Fred’s Reier and Thompson to retire

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s on Friday announced the retirement of both John Reier, president, and Gerald Thompson, executive vice president and chief operating officer, pursuant to the company’s management succession plan.

Both men had previously expressed their intentions to retire following the transition to a new company president, which occurred in September when Fred’s named Bruce Efird to that position.

“John and Jerry have made significant contributions to our strategies, operations and organizational structure, and we are grateful for their hard work and dedication to Fred’s, our business and the more than 10,000 Fred’s employees. We wish them all the best in their retirement years,” stated Michael Hayes, Fred’s chief executive officer.

“Collaborating with Bruce Efird over the past five months, John and Jerry have effected a smooth transition at the top of our management team,” Hayes added. “This progress positions Fred’s to continue the important initiatives underway that we believe provide a solid foundation for future growth.”

Fred’s operates 713 discount general merchandise stores mainly in the southeastern United States, including 24 franchised Fred’s stores. 

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Longs reports drop in same store sales

BY Doug Desjardins

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. Longs Drug reported a 1.5 percent drop in same store sales for December.

Total retail sales were up 0.7 percent to $529 million from the same period last year. Front-end sales were to blame for the drop, with sales declining 2.8 percent in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Pharmacy sales for the 510-store chain were up 0.2 percent for the month.

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