Shopper Insights: Impact of Ethical Shopping on Everyday Brands

The internet and social media have made it easier than ever for consumers to keep informed on ethical issues and to find out the standards their favourite brands hold. Documentaries such as Blue Planet, Cowspiracy and a significant increase in news campaigns promoting ethical consumer choices have led more and more consumers to consider the impact of their purchases and lifestyle choices on the environment.

Every year January brings together a new consumer campaign known as “veganuary” inspiring people to eat and live a vegan/ plant-based lifestyle for the month of January. This year more and more brands jumped on the bandwagon by creating or extending their vegan ranges in store. It was hard to miss the controversy created by Gregg’s launch of a vegan sausage roll with controversial tv personality Piers Morgan sparking a viral public debate on veganism.

Adoreboard uses advanced emotion AI to extract key themes and emotions from customer commentary both online and offline. Emotics, our emotion analytics platform can analyse any text for over 24 emotions. Understanding the key emotions of your customers can enhance brand customer centricity and enhance customer experience.

In order to understand customer perception and trust in ethical initiatives by brands, we analysed over 100,000 mentions of the leading UK supermarkets. We delved deeper into the data to see what themes were evoking key emotions such as trust, anger and joy.


Palm Oil Reduction

Frozen supermarket chain Iceland topped our analysis alongside Sainsbury’s with a Trust Score of 37. Trust is measured on an index from 0-100. High trust was driven towards Iceland after their controversially banned Christmas ad which featured a Greenpeace video explained the devastating effect of palm oil production on the rainforest. Many people talked positively about Iceland raising the issue of palm oil and making effort to reduce its use in their own-brand products.

Extended Vegan Options

In January, just in time for veganuary Iceland announced an extension of vegan products in store. This introduction led to high levels of joy amongst customers praising the variety and quality of these products. People particularly enjoy the “No Bull’ range of vegan burgers and sausages and the addition of more Indian varieties.

Plastic Free by 2023

Another clear contributor to Iceland’s high trust score was their effort to remove unnecessary plastic packaging by 2023. People have taken to Twitter and Instagram to praise Iceland for already ditching the plastic packaging on bananas as part of the movement.

By making very public strides towards becoming a more ethical brand, Iceland are gaining trust and exposure with new and existing customers.


New Ready Meals

Sainsbury’s placed joint top in Trust with a score of 37 and also highest in Joy with a score of 52/100. High joy was driven by their vast and growing range of vegan meat substitutes. A major recurring theme in the analysis were Sainsbury’s own brand sausages being the best available option in UK supermarkets with their realistic taste.

High trust was also driven by praise for their vegan ready meal options. Own brand offerings plus new emerging brands such as Sophie’s Kitchen and Gardien.

Not so Meat-free

It was not all good for Sainbury’s throughout the mentions there was some anger driven by claims there were traces of meat found in ‘meat free’ products. The Daily Mail, The Independent and Sky News covered the controversy.


Morrisons placed third in Trust with a score of 36 out of 100. Much like Sainsbury’s Morrisons have jumped on the veganuary bandwagon and worked to increase their vegan offerings. Mentions of vegan sushi drove high joy and trust amongst customers.

Further praise for vegan pizza and ice-cream also got people excited. Many making longer trips to Morrisons across the country to get their hands on some vegan ranges.

One of the major recurring themes driving trust was Morrisons attempt to reduce plastic packaging in store. One of their first steps reported was their plan to introduce paper bags for loose fruit and veg and recyclable containers for meat purchases.

However, some of their current efforts to reduce plastic are lacking. Complaints of bananas and deli counter plastic packaging have emerged.

Marks & Spencer

Highstreet heavyweight Marks and Spencer or M&S have increased trust from consumers with a trust score of 36 out of 100. The introduction of the convenience vegan food range “Plant Kitchen” which introduced more than 50 plant-based food choices. Including the popular vegan pizza, cauliflower popcorn bits and no pork sausages. The vast range of plant-based choices drove high joy amongst consumers praising M&S for their inclusivity and product development.

However, the main factor bringing anger into the mix is the high price of the range. Consumers are taking to Twitter and Instagram to complain about the high price tag on meat-free products, especially cauliflower steaks sold as two slices of cauliflower wrapped in plastic for £2 when you can buy a full cauliflower for £1.

Brands can no longer hide from emerging sustainability trends. Consumers are more educated than ever on their impact on the planet. Plant-based diets, plastic-free packaging, ethically sourced meat are all part of the future. This analysis has shown the clear impact brands can have on their customer trust and overall experience by recognising and introducing green initiatives into their everyday business practices and products.

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