Marketing From the Grocery Aisle: Green Gap

Marketers are notorious for rooting out scientific terms than plastering them across product packaging and advertisements in hope of generating demand or in some cases, concerns. Consider “fats.” There’s trans, saturated, and unsaturated, the latter can be poly or mono. Coconut, palm, and other tropical fats are bad because they’re hydrogenated trans fat. Olive, sunflower, and other types of plant-based oils or fats are mono or polyunsaturated, which are considered good. Butter is a saturated fat, which is generally bad, but not as bad as some stick margarines, containing primarily trans fats.


Because “fats” are so confusing, marketers can trick customers by claiming a product has “no saturated fats,” yet, if you look at the ingredients, the second ingredient, after sugar is palm oil. The same confusion exists when marketing products containing whole grains. Food manufacturers are quick to tout the “whole grain goodness” in their products, but avoid pointing out these healthful grains may be listed below nutrient-deficient refined wheat flour.

One of the newest sets of confusing words – which aren’t limited to food — are “green,” “organic,” and “environmentally friendly.” Not only do consumers not know the difference, but they may not understand why products produced under these auspices command higher prices.

In addition, marketers are quick to “greenwash,” promoting their products as environmentally friendly, further making it difficult for consumers to discern a truly green product from one that has a fancy label.

For manufacturers, the question is whether going organic and green translates into higher profits and customer loyalty. According to the Better Business Bureau, environmentally conscious consumers are willing to seek out products they believe are better for the environment and are willing to pay a higher price.1

On the other hand, Radius Global Marketing Research shows green marketing efforts targeted to men may not be working.2According to Chip Lister, Managing Director of Radius, in spite of increased money being spent on green marketing initiatives, “the majority of men are not significantly influenced by environmental responsibility when they make a purchase.”

According to Nielsen’s 2011 Global Online Environment & Sustainability Survey, 83% of consumers worldwide say it’s important that companies implement programs to improve the environment; however, only 22% say they will pay more for eco-friendly products.3

This consumer disconnect between valuing environmentally friendly products and being willing to pay a higher price to purchase them is known as the green gap.

A few ways to overcome the green gap is by making green products the norm. The household cleaner, Bon Ami was created over 120 years ago, using natural ingredients. It’s always been green. And for generations of cooks, it’s been the choice for cleaning pots, pans, and other surface, which can easily be scratched.

Don’t just say your product is “green,” provide tangible evidence of its value to the environment or one’s health. One reason why bamboo flooring has taken off is that it’s made from a highly renewable, fast-growing resource, bamboo. It takes 3-5 years for bamboo to reach maturity as compared to traditional hard wood, which can take 20-120 years. The benefits of choosing bamboo flooring are tangible from its sturdiness to knowing it’s made from a fast-growing grass rather than a tree.

Finally, if your product isn’t truly eco-friendly (organic, ethically produced, fair-trade or made from local products), don’t brand it as such. According to TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, only 2% of products labeled as “green” are completely legitimate in their claims.4 It’s better to market your products based on their virtual rather than end up being embarrassed by being listed on a watch group site.

1 BBB on Marketing Green Products,” Randy Hutchinson, Better Business Bureau,, October 14, 2011
2 Green Marketing Claims Have Little Impact on the Purchase Decisions of Men,” Radius Global Market Research, PR Newswire, October 11, 2011
3 The “Green” Gap Between Environmental Concerns and the Cash Register,” NeilsonWire, August 31, 2011
98% of Green Labeled Products are Actually Greenwashed,” Treehugger, a Discovery Company, Jayme Heimbuch, April 17, 2009


One comment

  1. love this Julie…we consumers are often taken on our purchases as they are not green. Thank you for doing the home work. smiles to you

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