Almost 8 million Indonesian consumers are ready to support and shift to sustainable palm oil products, according to a pioneering market survey commissioned by the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and carried out by TNS and Daemeter Consulting in 2015.

Low awareness, but potential demand for sustainable palm oil

The study is the first of its kind to analyze consumer perceptions on sustainable palm oil in Indonesia, providing a much-needed benchmark along with insights that can help to spur demand for sustainable palm oil in one of the world’s largest palm oil markets.

The findings reveal that although consumers’ understanding of the environmental and social impact of palm oil is still generally very low and uneven, a specific market segment shows a promising degree of readiness to  support and shift to sustainable palm oil products, if available.

A need to grow the discussion

“RSPO believes that consumers can play a key role to leverage change in the supply chain towards greater production of sustainable palm oil. From the findings of this survey, we can see that consumers are open to discuss further about sustainable palm oil – we need to take advantage of this momentum to widen the conversation with consumers about this important issue. We hope the findings of our study can help our stakeholders to optimize their consumer-oriented communications to increase their awareness and involvement in support of sustainable palm oil products,” according to Stefano Savi, RSPO’s Global Outreach and Engagement Director.

Some of the key findings of the study point to the challenges inherent to promoting sustainable palm oil in Indonesia:

  • The concept of sustainable palm oil is difficult to understand by consumers. After hearing about it, half of respondents either described this as the government’s problem, or were of the opinion that consumers could only make a small impact.
  • Consumers are unaware of how versatile palm oil is. When respondents were prompted about the first product that came to mind regarding palm oil, they could only identify it as cooking oil–whereas it is found in a much broader range of products they use daily.
  • Only a minority of respondents (16%) think that it is their responsibility to do something about the negative impacts of palm oil. When it comes to who they consider responsible for promoting and ensuring sustainable palm oil products, respondents feel that in addition to the government (93%) and oil palm plantations (66%), consumer goods manufacturers (52%) also play an important role.
  • Only 11% of respondents claim to recognize the RSPO logo (more than most sustainability Trademarks), but they don’t know what it means.

Despite the challenges, the study sheds light on tangible opportunities that can be seized immediately to grasp part of the Indonesian market that is ready for sustainable palm oil. Twenty-seven percent of of consumers claim to be ready for sustainable palm oil, even at a higher price, and the study details what would be the best way to approach them.  

Next steps

The RSPO is now working on the preparation of a communications resource that is based on the study, and that will help stakeholders in the Indonesian palm oil supply chain to communicate more effectively with consumers on sustainable palm oil.

The study was conducted between May and August 2015, and focused on adult women to represent the decision makers for household purchases from middle to high income in major cities. The qualitative study was conducted through in-home observations, in-depth interviews, and focus group discussions in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, and Pekanbaru. Meanwhile, the quantitative study involved 700 female respondents as the main sample for the quantitative study in major cities in Indonesia, namely Medan, Palembang, Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya.

The complete report and the visual summaries can be downloaded in Indonesian and English from the Daemeter website.



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