Last week, I spoke at the Financial Times Future of Retail Live event as part of a panel discussion titled “The Conscious Consumer: who will pay for a sustainable future?”. With fellow panellists representing Avon, Nomad Foods and University of Leeds, we discussed a wide range of topics including the climate crisis, consumer reaction and business responsibility.
We kicked off the debate reflecting on how consumers have become more conscious in their purchasing habits. At Britvic, we have found this has accelerated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in relation to healthier and more sustainable products. In fact, our research shows that a third of consumers are now saying green motivations impact their purchasing decisions.
For Britvic, a core principle is that we care, and we know consumers, more than ever, are expecting this from businesses. This has long been ingrained in how we operate, for example, we reformulated our portfolio reducing and removing sugar from our drinks well before the sugar levy came into force, because it was the right thing to do.
We are also seeing an increasing desire from consumers for Britvic to make it easier for them to make sustainable choices. Packaging is a prime example and Britvic has been innovating the way drinks are packaged for many years. As well as transitioning GB-made bottles in our portfolio to 100% rPET, we have supported the domestic production of food-grade rPET in the UK through our £5m financing support to Esterform Packaging Ltd. In the past year we’ve also looked at ways we can go ‘Beyond the Bottle’ when delivering our drinks to our consumers. Key to this is the ‘reuse and refill’ channel, in which we are investing and innovating through the Aqua Libra Company, which offers still and sparkling taps to organisations. We see this as a tremendous growth opportunity in the future as people’s behaviours and expectations for how they get their drinks continues to evolve.
During the event discussion, it was clear that despite all the panellists coming from different sectors, we were all united in our views that spend on a sustainable strategy should be seen as an investment, not a cost. It is about future-proofing the business and protecting the communities in which we operate. These choices will have a financial benefit too. For example, in our UK network we have reduced road miles to minimise our carbon emissions, which in turn also limits our fuel spend. Ultimately, Britvic will continue take action, as part of our Healthier People Healthier Planet strategy, to contribute to, and lead for, a sustainable future.
Joanne Wilson | Chief Financial Officer