05 European consumer scepticism


Europeans may have a dim view of the world, but their opinion of consumption is just as negative. in their minds, it tends to be associated with a list of descriptors that form part of a generally derogatory narrative (Fig. 14).
Materialistic, superficial, manipulative, individualistic and easily influenced. These are the five adjectives Europeans are most likely to use in describing today’s consumer society. It is also seen as unjust and dangerous.
This disdain is common to all countries. Unsurprisingly, seniors are the most condemnatory in their critique of a consumption model that they believe has gone too far. the highest-ranked positive term, “responsible”, sits in a lowly 8th place.

FIG. 14 :



Rising environmental consciousness has affected the degree to which Europeans are comfortable with their behaviour as consumers (Fig. 15).
Buying products wrapped in plastic tops the list (52%), followed by the failure to recycle waste (42%) and driving a diesel-powered car (36%). These three results demonstrate the effectiveness of campaigns to raise awareness of specific environmental issues.
Not everyone still sees superstores as the sacred temples of consumption they once were (35%), an observation that validates the questioning of this economic model by many retailers. a significant proportion (35%) also feel guilty for eating meat. However, travelling by plane does not yet weigh too heavily on people’s consciences, confirming that holidays and leisure still stimulate the consumerist urges of Europeans (21%).

FIG. 15 :


FIG. 16 :


A trend towards activism

Flygskam, the feeling of shame derived from taking the plane, is a phenomenon that has taken off in recent years. the concept, which originated in Sweden, is beginning to spread across Europe and the United States.
People deliberately choosing other means of transport rather than planes has had a direct impact on the Swedish airline market, which has seen domestic travel fall 6% and the use of international flights fall 2%. Were this phenomenon to gain real momentum, the future outlook for global air travel would be significantly affected.


The fact that Europeans attach a variety of negative values to consumption is affecting their willingness to spend (Fig. 17). 42% feel that they consume less than they did three years ago, with only 17% believing that they make more purchases. the Italians, Portuguese and Swedes are the most likely to feel that they consume less, while the Poles and Romanians top the list of those who feel that they consume more.
From a generational standpoint, seniors are significantly more likely than millennials to have reduced their spending (47% vs. 37%).

FIG. 17 :



The reasons for cutting down on consumption are often economic, especially among seniors.
Other reasons include satisfaction with existing possessions and fewer needs overall (Fig. 18).
the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe point to the former, while the Northern countries tend to emphasize the latter.

FIG. 18 :


A trend towards activism

In what is an unprecedented development, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sales (or demand) in Europe have experienced zero volume growth (source: Nielsen).
While growth was slightly positive in Spain and Italy (+1.3%), it was negative in Germany, the United Kingdom and France (-0.5%, -0.4% and -0.3%).
Worldwide FMCG sales growth stood at just 2%, half the rate of global economic growth.


When the topic turns to the coming years, Europeans seem more hesitant in regard to reducing their consumption (Fig. 19). 6 out of 10 expect to consume neither more nor less. Only 1 in 10 want to consume more, while 3 in 10 intend to cut down on their spending.
In all countries, more than half of the respondents are uncertain as to whether they will consume more or less.

FIG. 19 :