'Janes' hold purchasing power, favor sustainably produced products

05/22/2008 02:00:00 AM

urveys in major markets for California almonds show that target consumers are becoming more sophisticated about how the products they eat are grown and appear willing to pay more for sustainably grown food.

In Western Europe, where more than half of all California almonds are exported annually, more than 80 percent of so-called "Jane" consumers say it is important that farms practice sustainability when producing the food and drink they consume. The 27-member states of the European Union represent the world's second largest market for almonds.

The July 2007 data on western European consumer attitudes comes from EuroPNStyles, an online survey of more than 16,000 adults in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom. The Almond Board of California commissioned the survey.

Janes, defined as well-educated, higher income consumers with an appetite for life, have been identified as an important market for California almonds because of their focus on active and healthful lifestyles and potential buying power.

Sixty-five percent of European Janes say they choose products that are environmentally friendly and agree that knowing a company is mindful of its environmental impact makes them more likely to buy that company's products. Janes also are more inclined than average European consumers to punish companies with poor environmental records.

In addition to their increased level of awareness and activism about how products are grown, these consumers also say they would pay more for foods identified as sustainably grown. More than one-fourth of European Janes say they would be willing to pay a 20 percent premium for sustainably produced products.

That European data reflect similar attitudes among Janes in other key markets including the United States and Asia.

According to a 2007 survey of 12,000 adults, more than half of the U.S. Janes surveyed buy environmentally friendly products, and nearly a fourth say they punish companies with bad environmental records by not buying their products. About 35 percent of all California almonds are consumed domestically, making it the industry's largest overall market.

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