For the last few years, the healthy eating trend has been dominating the food industry. Farmers markets have grown as consumers have demanded more fresh and local foods. Organic goods, too, have been steadily increasing in sales, and many people have adopted plant-based diets for both health reasons and environmental ones.
In the meantime, consumers have turned to cookware made with natural materials – like stainless steel and cast iron – and moved away from plastic straws and storage containers and have even looked for small-batch items that are ethically sourced and may also have some type of give-back arrangement.
Now, these trends have come together, creating a sustainability movement that is hitting its stride. Consumers are turning to retailers for products that not only bring solutions to their homes and kitchens that allow them to live a healthy lifestyle but are also allowing them to feel good about their environmental impact.
“We’ve seen a growing consumer confidence in understanding what sustainable choices are. We’ve been carrying sustainable products since we opened and in the last six months, we’ve seen a surge in product sales for these products,” said Coryanne Ettiene, owner of Ettiene Market stores in McKinney and Roundtop, TX.
She explained that as part of her store’s ethos, it doesn’t carry plastic and she also tries to stay away from man-made materials. While that may seem like a lot of legwork upfront, Ettiene said that it has unknowingly prepared her for the increased amount of consumers who have had their interest piqued in this way of life.
“We’ve seen a surge in new customers coming to us asking for both education and inspiration into this new lifestyle. For those who are new to sustainability, we’ve seen them eager for food wraps, food storage and anything related to food prep that is non plastic, non-toxic and reusable,” she said.
Kirsten Gjesdal, owner of Billings, SD-based The Carrot Seed Kitchen Co., said that her community is also very conscious of the environment.
“Our local recycling company recently stopped accepting plastic bags, so the topic of sustainability when shopping has been top of mind for our community. The city government is currently considering a plastic bag ban and increasing marketing on how we can live more sustainably, from bringing your own bag, reusing plastic bags, or going without,” she said.
As these issues come to the forefront of her customer base, Gjesdal said that she is also seeing a rise in consumers who are looking for products to help live more sustainable lifestyles, from plastic straws to storage goods.
“Our top selling eco-friendly products are definitely Stasher reusable silicone bags and all kinds of reusable straws. Our most popular straws are Kikkerland plastic straws and collapsible metal straws and RSVP rainbow silicone straws and straight metal straws,” she said.
Like Gjesdal, Catherine Fisher, owner of South Orange, NJ-based Kitchen A La Mode has seen her community interest in living more sustainably reach a fever pitch. The store recently launched a “take a bag, leave a bag” program in response to a ban on plastic bags as well as a $.05 charge on paper bags. The store put up a fixture and people have been bringing their bags in droves.
“The concept was that if you didn’t have a bag, you could take one and then bring one next time. People have really come out for this, we have so many bags,” she said.
Fisher also noted that she has seen an increase in products for composting as well as those that allow for movement towards zero waste lifestyles and has created vignettes around the sustainable goods.
“We group them all together in a ‘green’ section and we even include books on how to compost and reduce waste. People are realizing that we need to start making changes ourselves and they are educating themselves to find better and more sustainable practices,” she said.
Ettiene takes her merchandising a step further, curating displays that are not only sustainable, but also have a seasonal bent to them. She also said that while this movement has seemingly caught on quickly, there is still a lot of education to be done surrounding sustainability. This, too, is something she focuses on for both merchandising and marketing.
“We curate each seasonal offering, linking seasonal items with sustainable choices. For Earth Day, we have a week-long promotion and educational theme that will allow us to give our new customers the foundation they need to adapt to a sustainable lifestyle,” she said.