Carbon-conscious China: Food manufacturers take heed

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Manufacturers need to build environmental strategies around Chinese consumer behaviour: The Carbon Trust
Manufacturers need to build environmental strategies around Chinese consumer behaviour: The Carbon Trust

Related tags: Carbon dioxide

China is concerned about the environmental footprint of food manufacturers, more-so than the US, according to new research, prompting a re-think for firms who base Asian environmental strategies on Western consumer demands.

The study, compiled by environmental group The Carbon Trust, involved online interviews with more than 2,500 18-25 year old consumers across six countries; the US, UK, South Korea, Brazil, China and South Africa.

China is heading the call for brands to reduce their impact on the environment, with over half of consumers stating they would stop buying a product if its manufacturer did not commit to measuring and reducing its carbon footprint.

This compared to a third of consumers in the US; a finding pegged as “startling”​ by Tom Delay, CEO of The Carbon Trust.

“Perhaps it is the Chinese, and not the US consumer, that really holds the key to unlocking the mass demand for new low carbon products necessary to deliver an environmentally sustainable economy,”​ Delay said.

Carbon concerns in China

“If global brands don’t build international carbon reduction strategies even faster, they risk missing out on the spending power of emerging economies,”​ Delay said.

“Carbon footprinting makes perfect business sense. We are increasingly advising businesses overseas, and international brands, on their carbon reduction strategies, as the financial and reputational benefits of lowering emissions go global,”​ he added.

Increased product costs pushed up by supply chain adjustments, would not put off consumers, according to the study, with just over a third prepared to pay more for a product with a lower carbon footprint.

The research showed that 83% of Chinese consumers would be loyal to a brand that reduced its carbon footprint, a figure significantly stronger than other markets; Korea (73%), the US (57%) and the UK (55%).

A large proportion of consumers in China (84%) also said they want companies to quantify environmental activities and efforts via an independent organisation. Just under half said an indication of this on packaging would influence purchase decisions.

Going green, economically

China’s food and beverage sector has already been targeted by companies working to drive ‘green’ production due to its sheer size and growth rate.

GE Food and Beverage Solutions implemented a strategy in October 2011, backed by a US$500m investment, to promote environmental solutions to Chinese food and beverage manufacturers.

Dan Walter, general manager for the GE subsidiary, said that China is ready for environmental solutions and told FoodNavigator-Asia that his team is focused on CO2 emissions as well as water and energy efficiency.

Walter said the team works with manufacturers to implement green technologies that can generate revenue and reduce costs.

Related topics: Markets, Supply chain, East Asia, China

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