Sustainable chocolate claims: effective or not?

Sustainable chocolate claims: effective or not?


Anyone researching sustainability nowadays is walking on thin ice. When interviewed, consumers are often inclined to give politically correct or socially desirable answers, while their actual behaviour indicates quite differently. What consumers say or think and what they do can be miles apart. Reason enough for Puratos to dig deeper into the results of the Taste Tomorrow survey in an ad hoc study that fully zooms in on the impact of claims. Nanno Palte, Group Marketing Intelligence Manager at Puratos, shares a number of important insights. 

Little impact
The Taste Tomorrow study shows that consumer interest in sustainability is actually quite limited. Only if they stand to personally benefit from their choices will sustainability play a significant role in their selection process and will their preference for a product or their ultimate decision to purchase something be influenced. This is the reason why we call our fourth key observation “My Sustainability”.

What makes chocolate sustainable?
You could conclude that claims with regard to sustainability will therefore not be effective. Nanno Palte, however, is of the opinion that this conclusion is drawn rather hastily. ‘The first thing the study reveals is that the concept of sustainability is interpreted in many different ways by consumers. If you ask the question “What does sustainability mean in relation to chocolate?” at the beginning of an interview, you will receive an incredible diversity of answers. In other words, consumers do not retain a uniform definition of what sustainable chocolate is exactly.'

Result: ‘The characteristics most often referred to with regard to sustainable chocolate are “better for the environment”, “naturalness”, and to a lesser extent “of a higher quality” (global average).’ It is remarkable that aspects such as 'supports the local community' or 'locally produced' are hardly ever associated with sustainable chocolate, particularly in Asia (China and Japan). 

Tremendous local differences
‘When we started to dig deeper into the results we encountered tremendous differences at country level. As a researcher, you know that it is always dangerous to generalize and to narrow down insights to regional or global averages. You are looking for a common denominator that applies to the entire market or a large portion of it. However, in the case of sustainability claims we did not find just one common denominator, but instead found tremendous differences in the impact of claims that ranged from country to country. And that’s only within the European continent alone! Consumers in France, for example, are more sensitive to the “single origin of cocoa” claim, while German consumers place more confidence in chocolate products bearing the “Fair Trade” label.’

Recommendation: For internationally operating chains it is important, with regard to claims – in general and in relation to sustainability – to retain a local approach to the market. Investigate which claims generate the highest appeal from country to country.
Sustainable chocolate claims: effective or not?
Sustainability claims with the highest impact
Without looking at their concrete effect on the decision to purchase, it can be said without a doubt that sustainability claims contribute added value. In a world where consumers are sceptical about the future quality of food, are distrustful of producers and yearn for more transparency, sustainability claims provide a guarantee from the producer with regard to such aspects as traceability, quality and naturalness.

Result: In France, the impact of the ‘single origin claim’ is highly significant. Nanno Palte believes that this can be attributed to the fact that the French link this claim to an expectation of superior taste. ‘The basic principle behind the “single origin” claim is that the cocoa beans are carefully chosen from specially selected plantations. As a result, this claim acts as a quality hallmark for the product.’

In an additional Taste Tomorrow study that focused only on product claims & communication, we interviewed consumers from eleven countries in relation to chocolate. Are you curious about the specific results of the claim research for your region or country? Please contact your local Puratos representative and schedule a meeting.