Consumers are 'crying out' for choice, says Sainsbury's chief

Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury's, believes consumers are "crying out" for clarity about the purchase choices available to them, and are "incredibly confused" by conflicting messages from brands and bodies regarding sustainability.

Justin King: chief executive of Sainsbury's
Justin King: chief executive of Sainsbury's

Speaking at the Consumer Futures 2020 conference yesterday (12 October) on sustainability, King said consumers "disengage" when bombarded with different messages about how people should or should not be behaving.

The Consumer Futures event debated possible future sustainable business and marketing models for 2020, as outlined in its report, with key speakers Amanda Sourri, chairman of Unilever and Sainbury’s King.

The Sainsbury's leader believes all retailers need to provide clarity for consumers when purchasing their products that are "unequivocally" a step in the right direction.

King cited the detergent category within the FMCG industry as an example of positive change to consumer behaviour, which had communicated to people the benefit of washing clothes on a lower temperature to lessen their impact on the environment.

Unilever is one of the FMCG manufacturers to have concentrated its washing detergents, such as Persil Small and Mighty, to create less packaging for each product and limiting the amount of waste and water used by consumers when washing.

Sourri said that through this model, Unilever had "demonstrably changed consumer behaviour" and reduced greenhouse gasses by between 18% and 25% as a result.

Many consumers were said to view sustainability as a "big issue", but remained unsure as to how they could make a difference by themselves. The impact from consumers, Sourri said, would come from "everybody purchasing PG Tips, which is sustainability sourced".

Stressing the significance of the mindset, Sourri added: "The difference for Unilever and Sainsbury's is that we have mainstream brands in our portfolio. This is not just fringe activity, this is really making an impact."

Follow Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith on Twitter @LoullaMae_ES

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