Consumer feels the sector is still too cautious about sustainability
Follow-up research of the Flower Council of Holland
Half of the consumers can see that the floriculture sector is working on sustainability, but at the same time they feel the sector is quite cautious about it. German and British flower and plant buyers are more optimistic about this than their Dutch and French counterparts. The Flower Council of Holland repeated its 2022 survey, with added questions on packaging and the impact of sustainability labels and communications. Another difference was the differentiation between flowers, houseplants, and garden plants. It shows, among other things, that for all product categories, packaging and the effects of crop protection agents are the highest priority for consumers.
In April and May, nearly 5,000 people buying flowers and plants in the Netherlands, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom participated in the online survey that the market research company Kantar conducted on behalf of the Flower Council of Holland. The objective was to receive feedback on various matters around sustainability. When it comes to sustainability, what is the flower and plant purchasing audience's perception of both the floriculture sector and its three product categories? What are their expectations and which barriers do consumers perceive to inform sustainable choices? This time around, more questions were added to gain further insight into the perception of sustainability, packaging preferences, and the impact of communications around flowers and plants.
The survey tested the extent to which consumers think that the floriculture sector contributes to a better future for humanity and the environment. For both flowers and plants, the outcome was over 40 percent, while the majority of respondents have no outspoken view either way. Across all four countries, half of respondents indicate that in their opinion, both the flower and plant sectors are still cautious when it comes to sustainability. Dutch consumers are clearly more critical than those in the other countries. Incidentally, the vast majority is of the opinion that all links in the chain should take responsibility for sustainable development, the consumer included.
The survey shows that consumers regard portability as a key requirement of sustainable packaging. Biodegradable materials are considered the most sustainable, followed by recycled and recyclable packaging materials. For flowers, paper wrapping is seen as the most sustainable. For houseplants, consumers prefer easily recyclable packaging. For garden plants, biodegradable packaging is the preferred material.
For 45 percent of respondents, the main product encountered in communications is plants, versus 37 percent for flowers. For over 25 percent of respondents, communications had a positive impact on their perception of flowers and plants. Communications around sustainability are viewed by 12 percent of the respondents.
Sustainability labels strengthen consumer confidence and are an incentive for more sustainable choices. Six out of ten (59%) of respondents has noticed sustainability labels when purchasing flowers and plants. Of those, 43 percent indicates they trust the sustainability label.
Barriers and more sustainable choices
A number of outcomes and conclusions of the 2022 survey are still relevant. It appears that almost half the consumers (49% for flowers, 46% for plants) has no intention to consider sustainability. For these consumers, buying floriculture products should just be fun.
As before, there is often still a large gap between the sustainability intention and actions of consumers. For instance, 89 percent indicates they would like to buy locally sourced products, whereas 36 percent actually does so. The same applies when it comes to premiums for more sustainable products.
What stops consumers from making more sustainable choices? The elements most cited are insufficient knowledge of the product, its provenance, the impact on the surrounding area, and the higher price. For many consumers, sustainability is not a factor at the time of purchasing. There are no real differences between flowers, houseplants, and garden plants in this respect.
Around 50 percent of respondents links sustainability themes to the floriculture sector, with a higher score for the plant sector than the flower sector. When it comes to negative associations, the same items are mentioned in all four countries, although their importance differs per country: use of pesticides, energy and water consumption, and packaging.
The surveys in the summers of 2022 and 2023 are annual snapshots. To track the development of sentiment in the short term, the Flower Council of Holland has initiated biweekly monitoring (sentiment tracker). This allows continuous monitoring of the positive and negative effects of current events. The results of the first couple of months are currently being collated. Towards the end of the year, we will have gained more insight into trend developments over a longer period of time. At the same time, we will closely monitor how consumers speak about sustainability around flowers and plants and the floriculture sector on for example social media.
Want to know more?
Download the handout with the research's highlights.