A survey charting the demand for sustainable products in major European Union markets have found that the highest demand is for food items.

The survey, carried out by the International Trade Commission (ITC) on behalf of the European Commission Directorate-General for Trade, found that retailers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain reported growing consumer demand for sustainably-sourced items across a number of product types.

But of the eight retail product groups surveyed – including beverages, clothing and mobile phones – it was food where the demand for sustainable sourcing was at its highest.

In food, sustainable product sales have grown by 18.9% in the last five years, outpacing the other product groups, and 98% of retailers reported an increase in the sale of sustainably-sourced products during the same period. Some 97% expect sales of such products to increase in the next five years.

Many reported that they work in partnership with their suppliers, both inside and outside the European Union, to introduce environmental and social standards. 

The report provides recommendations for policymakers, retailers and suppliers to improve their understanding and share of this growing market.

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By GlobalData

Suppliers are advised to integrate sustainability into business processes and to be proactive instead of reactive to the needs of future consumers. 

It is also recommended they share information and experience with other retailers and manufacturers on sustainability issues and solutions in supplier countries. 

Retailers are urged to listen to customers and their preferences for fair and ethical products and to engage with buyers and share information with them about adherence to sustainability standards. 

The ITC is a development agency dedicated to supporting the internationalisation of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It is a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations.