What sustainable shoppers are buying in 2022
For consumers looking to shop sustainably, Earth Mall with Rakuten is Japan’s hottest online hangout. A collection of all of the sustainable products available for purchase through e-commerce marketplace Rakuten Ichiba, the website allows shoppers to seek out items with specific labels demonstrating that products are certifiably eco-friendly, organic, fair-trade and more.
Since launching in late 2018, Earth Mall with Rakuten has amassed a catalog of over 130,000 different sustainable products, and demand is growing fast: 2021 saw sales grow over 290%, while traffic to the site jumped by a factor of almost five.
But what exactly are all of these sustainable shoppers buying? To celebrate the recent launch of Rakuten’s Go Green Together project, the Earth Mall team pulled some data to determine the platform’s 10 most sought-after items for the 12 months up to May 2022.
“More consumers are welcoming sustainable goods as part of their regular lifestyles.”Eriko Hirai, Earth Mall with Rakuten team
Sustainable seafood, forest-friendly paper and instant noodles
Taking the top spot in the overall rankings was ASC-certified smoked salmon. The WWF-founded non-profit Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) monitors seafood farming practices, ensuring that they are conducted in a socially responsible manner with environmentally sustainably methods. The salmon in question is farmed and processed in Norway, using no additives or preservatives.
Sustainable seafood wasn’t the only item on the menu: Food products dominated the top 10, with Organic JAS-certified rooibos tea, flax oil, olive oil and pure organic lemon juice all making the cut.
Somewhat intriguingly, Nissin Cup Noodle was Rakuten’s fourth-most popular sustainable product for the year; the iconic quick meal is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
Rounding out the top 10 were eco-friendly washing detergent, locally produced incense sticks and two paper products. Tissues produced through sustainable forestry and chlorine-free printing paper are both certified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Zooming in on the zoomers
So what’s around the corner for sustainable shopping? The Earth Mall team delved a little deeper into the data, exploring the preferences of their younger user base and publishing a list of the 10 products most sought out by shoppers in their 20s.
Topping the Gen Z rankings was an item that only just made it onto the overall list: the hibi 10 minutes aroma incense sticks. Available in 10 different fragrances (do Japanese cypress, fragrant olive and yuzu citrus pique your curiosity?), the sticks are ignited just like regular matches, and left to burn for around 10 minutes on a special included plate.
These stylish products are sold under Earth Mall’s ‘rural revitalization’ category. The manufacturer has been making matches for over 80 years in Himeji, in the west of Japan, recently capturing the attention of young shoppers by collaborating with a local fragrance maker.
The Gen Z list also featured a number of sustainable food items, including organic apple cider vinegar, oatmeal powder, coconut oil, another brand of rooibos tea and fair-trade Belgian chocolate.
Meanwhile, some sustainable skincare enthusiasts are seeking out organic green clay masks made from Sicilian green clay and other natural ingredients. Other young shoppers are jumping on a new baby shower trend: diaper cakes – gifts of diapers, 100% organic cotton socks and other items certified by the Japan Organic Cotton Association, that are shaped to look like cakes.
The final item on the Gen-Z list is another fair-trade product: the Sonnenglas solar lantern. Handmade in South Africa from recycled glass and metal, these stylish lanterns are powered by a built-in solar panel and battery – perfect both for camping trips and to decorate a sunny windowsill at home.
“Young people are more inclined to be influenced by the stories behind the products they purchase.”Eriko Hirai, Earth Mall with Rakuten team
Sustainable shopping: The new normal?
The data reveals that more and more consumers are integrating sustainable choices into their everyday lives, says Eriko Hirai, head of the Earth Mall with Rakuten team. Hirai is optimistic about the fact that younger shoppers are choosing these products not just for their sustainable merits, but simply because they are good products.
“The rankings are full of food and everyday items, suggesting that more consumers are welcoming sustainable goods as part of their regular lifestyles,” she says. “We can also see that consumers are choosing products that they consider not only sustainable, but beneficial to their health, such as teas and oils.”
Hirai’s team runs a blog (in Japanese) that explores the unique stories behind some of their favorite sustainable items.
“Several of the products in the youth rankings – the incense sticks, solar lanterns and apple vinegar, for example – are items we have written about on our blog. To me, this suggests that compared to the overall population, young people are more inclined to be influenced by the stories behind the products they purchase.”
Earth Mall’s rankings make it clear that sustainable shopping is becoming less of a niche pursuit and more of an everyday choice. With young shoppers taking an interest in the provenance of the products they buy, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the future of sustainable commerce.