Most consumers consider sustainability an important topic, as do horticultural product buyers. The Flower Council of Holland studied this in four EU countries. Nearly 90% of people would like to buy locally grown flowers and plants, and over one-third of them are actually doing so. The Flower Council of Holland commissioned a study on why this might be. There is already a considerable shift towards sustainability in the horticulture sector, but consumer awareness of this is still fairly limited. "Above all, buying flowers and plants will need to remain fun and straightforward for consumers."
Consumer views on sustainability
In its Sustainability Index 2022, research firm Kantar notes that 97% of consumers would prefer to have a sustainable lifestyle, but only 13% of them are actually making the required behavioral changes. They have marked a preference for 'sustainable' when it comes to flowers and plants, too. Nonetheless, when it comes to the crunch, consumers are finding themselves faced with a few obstacles. The lack of clear product information, limited availability, and price are stopping them from choosing sustainable products. This is one of the conclusions of the survey conducted by Kantar in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom for The Flower Council of Holland in August. A total of 4,820 consumers aged 18-70 took part in a comprehensive online survey.
The Flower Council of Holland is gathering insights into consumer preferences in its four core countries (Netherlands, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) and the factors that affect whether or not they go ahead and purchase sustainable flowers and plants. The marketing and promotion division is sharing these insights and knowledge with growers and traders to make it possible to collectively remove the obstacles perceived by consumers and enable the sector to continue to engage in dialogue with society.
Natural product that makes people happy
The survey shows that one-third of people (34%) believe that the horticulture sector has a positive effect on promoting sustainability in society. In that sense, the sector is mainly associated with a 'natural product that makes people happy.' In particular, the respondents believe that flowers and plants are good for the planet (24%) and their own health (20%).
The positive associations do not detract from the fact that 47% of consumers also regard the sector as reactive when it comes to sustainability, with 5% of respondents having an outright negative image of the sector. Despite consumers wanting to choose sustainable products, there is still too little clarity and relevant information at present.
The most pressing issues that consumers would like the sector to address are reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers, (non-recyclable) packaging, and waste. Consumers emphasized different things in the countries surveyed. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a strong focus in the Netherlands. Respondents in both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom stress the importance of devoting extra attention to the problem of excessive (non-recyclable) packaging. French consumers are keen to see a reduction in excessive water consumption. The main focus in Germany is on health risks associated with the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
The survey shows that there is still quite often a significant gap between consumer intentions in terms of sustainability and actual behavior. For example, nearly 90% of the respondents stated that they would like to buy more locally produced flowers and plants wherever possible, compared to 36% who actually do so. No fewer than 67% of them say that paying more for more sustainable products would be acceptable. And yet, despite these good intentions, 60% say that they will end up buying the cheaper, less sustainable product. There is a degree of disparity between intention and behavior when it comes to sustainable packing as well, with 86% wanting to buy flowers and plants with less plastic decoration and/or packaging material more often. This contrasts with 63% buying flowers and plants with aesthetically pleasing packaging material that contains more plastic.
Up to the chain
When asked who needs to take responsibility, the respondents offer clear, nuanced responses. In that regard, they have in mind the chain as a whole and are alert to the need to consider their own role as well. Producers, retailers, and government are each cited by nearly three-quarters of the respondents, with 70% of all respondents having the good conscience to specifically mention their own responsibility.
The survey shows that consumers are open to change and would like to choose sustainable horticultural products. However, buying flowers and plants will need to remain fun and straightforward for them, too. In the horticulture sector, there are many more actions and developments on sustainability than are visible to consumers. If those consumers are actually going to include sustainability as a purchasing criterion, the sector must be ready for it. And that requires the commitment of all chain partners.
For more information
Flower Council of Holland