Kitchen product feature: Sustainability matters

With Earth Day 2024 coming up later this month, as well as exploring the latest sustainable product innovations, we’re also looking at how retailers can engage their customers most effectively on this issue. Francesca Seden reports…

Looking at studies and statistics today, it is clear that sustainability matters increasingly. Consumers want to make sure their choices are ethical and planet-friendly, as far as they can, across all sectors, with KBB purchases being no different. The manufacturers we spoke to this month are in unanimous agreement.

One of the key mantras we hear from manufacturers is “longevity equals sustainability”, or “buy well, buy once”. They say that consumers are prepared to spend more on products that are likely to last, and a recent study from Deloitte backs this up.

Keller claims to offer the widest range of colours and finishes in the kitchen furniture market – all produced by the most sustainable means possible.

In its Sustainable Consumer 2023 study, the global consultancy firm polled 2,000 UK adults aged 18+, and found that, despite the cost-of-living crisis, 42% paid more for a longer-lasting products, while one-in-three stopped buying from brands because of ethical or sustainability concerns.

Paul Illingworth, design manager at Abode adds: “The average age of the first-time buyer in England is now 34, and according to government statistics 51% of first-time buyers are aged 25 to 34 and 30% are 35 to 44. With this in mind, it is helpful to look at broader consumer trends in this age group.

“The latest market research from Statista clearly shows that the majority of UK consumers aged 16 to 44 are more likely to buy from a retailer or brand that has strong ethical and sustainability credentials. So it is essential for everyone in the supply chain from manufacturers to retailers to effectively convey their commitment to these areas and underline how their products will deliver on these issues with pride and confidence.”

Numerous studies and reports over the past five to 10 years have shown a steady increase in more sustainable purchasing behaviours, and it’s reasonably well-established now that consumers, wherever they can, will make an eco-friendly choice. But how can retailers most effectively engage consumers to make the most sustainable choice, and what are the key things to consider when trying to design a sustainable kitchen?

Because, despite the stats, retailers tell a different story on consumer attitudes. One retailer, Elizabeth Pantling-Jones of Lima Kitchens, says that, at best, people coming into her showroom “may resell appliances or opt for energy-efficient products, but it’s more about running costs than sustainability”.

What the problem is, is not entirely clear. Given the cost-of-living crisis, it may just be the case that other things are prioritised and that some consumers just can’t justify the higher upfront costs that come with more sustainable products, or don’t know enough or care enough. Nevertheless, manufacturers are pushing forward with sustainable innovations, and despite Pantling-Jones’s experiences, lots of the data does point towards a shifting sentiment among consumers, even if they aren’t always acting on it.

Schüller’s new Matera range consists of fully-recyclable front material, 71% of which comes from the circular economy.

Stuart Dance, director of In-House Inspired Design, a subsidiary of Schüller in the UK, notes that there has certainly been a positive shift in consumer behaviour towards sustainability. “However, this always needs to balance with budgets. It’s important to us that sustainability is not only available as a premium feature, but is available for all consumers to access. We must also commit the time to educate people who may not be aware of the benefits.”

In terms of how retailers can most effectively engage their retailers, there were a few key pointers we have picked out from those we spoke to. These include approaching your customers in a way that is relatable, and which is framed around shared values and practical benefits. 


Explain long-term benefits over potentially higher up-front costs in a clear and concise way, using tools and marketing material to help you do this. Of course, this is more straightforward with some products than others. With appliances, it’s fairly easy using online calculators such as Youreko, to work out the cost, water and energy savings, and some online appliance retailers also have a calculator on their websites.

Where furniture and other products are concerned, it’s of course important to display any pertinent information such as FSC certification, or guarantees of quality, such as the lifetime guarantees that sometimes come with worktops. With taps, you could have the Unified Water Label on display. Indeed the Government plans to make water-efficiency labelling mandatory by 2025. Retailers should utilise all the relevant marketing and promotional material they have.

A message that applies across the board is “buy well, buy once”, – this resonates so well as it represents good value, as well as sustainability. 

“By investing in high-quality, durable appliances,” says Asko product and marketing manager Jessica Rhodes, “consumers can minimise the need for frequent replacements and, conse­quently, reduce associated waste. This shift in mind-set prompts individuals to consider a slightly higher upfront cost as a strategic investment, avoiding the recurring expenses associated with regular replacements.”

Liebherr UK’s divisional manager Tim Hutchinson makes a similar point, adding that retailers need to be armed with a greater understanding of the long-term benefits of investing in a more premium appliance, especially when people are struggling with rising costs.

“It has never been more impor­tant to adopt a “buy well, buy once” mentality. Home­owners should be looking for products that have a long life cycle and deliver op­­­ti­­­mum perfor­mance, which help reduce household costs, from energy to the weekly food shop,” he says. “These should be key considerations when retailers are suggesting appliances for a client’s kitchen.”

Rotpunkt says 95% of its furniture is FSC-certified and the company only uses wood from sustainable forests in Germany, Austria and France.

Steve Jones, managing director at appliance buying group Sirius, goes on to say that, across the UK, increasingly discerning end users are weighing up their options in terms of a higher upfront cost for long-term rewards and the reassurance of a premium brand focusing on what is the best bang for their buck right now.

Healthier living and wellness can also factor in to pur­­­chasing decisions, and these are usually in the wheelhouse around sustainability. The most obvious things one might think of are filtered water taps and air quality – having a good quality, efficient extractor. But while these are very impor­­tant, some con­­­­­­su­­­­­­­­­­­mers may also be considering the materials things are made from and how those materials could possibly impact health and well-being.

Both Rotpunkt and Caesarstone talk about improvements they’ve made to their products to make them more environmentally-friendly in the home.

Rotpunkt’s Bioboard Gen 2 solutions, for example, meets the F4 Star Standard, the company says. This is to do with certain chemicals, like formaldehyde used in the production. Rotpunkt says its Bioboard Gen 2 “gives off 50% fewer emissions when compared with conventional chipboard to ensure a healthier living environment in the home”.

Another brand that is making inroads into this area, is Caesarstone. Jonathan Stanley, VP of marketing at Caesarstone, outlines the issue and some of the solutions the brand is putting in place: “We’ve seen an increasing interest in eco-friendly materials and practices in the kitchen. However, the stone industry is lacking in trans­­parency, and it’s almost impossible for consumers to make an informed choice.

Caesarstone’s new Mineral Surfaces range has a blend of quartz, feldspar, and advanced materials, including a higher proportion of recycled elements.

“The lack of clear information about where materials come from, how they’re extracted, and the environ­mental footprint they leave behind creates a significant barrier to decision-making. At Caesarstone, we recognise the urgency of add­­ressing this trans­­­parency gap and understand that consumers deserve to know the full story behind the products they bring into their homes. Our Declare label, EPD, ESG Report and lifetime warranty all help empower consumers to make eco-conscious choices with confidence.”

Additionally, Caesarstone’s latest innovation, the Mineral Surfaces range, is a low-silica alternative featuring a higher proportion of recycled material. As well as thinking about the materials themselves, it’s worth thinking about where they come from, and buying locally if it suits you and your customer base. British brand Daval champions this. 

Modern consumers care more than previous generations about the ethics of the brands they buy, and it’s possible that they will check the credentials of the brands you supply.

KBBG managing director Bill Miller comments: “Take a step back and look at how you could make your operations more sustainable. Think about whether your showroom uses single-use plastic and how you could recycle packaging. This will help the industry become more sustainable.”

If you as a retailer want to be known as a ‘sustainable retailer’, or if you hold those values, then make it obvious. Promote them and like-minded customers will come to you.

Consumers expect companies to go the extra mile in minimising the impact of their products.

John Davies, head of marketing, Smeg

A number of our contributors talk about living by the values you’re trying to promote – ensuring your business is as sustainable as it can be, and pairing with brands that care about sus­­tainability and sustainable practices. 

Most big brands know that true sustainability, not greenwashing, will have an impact on sales. As Smeg UK’s head of marketing John Davies comments: “Consumers expect com­­panies to go the extra mile in minimising the impact of their products. This requires that the design approach not only of the appliance and its whole life cost, but also the packaging, is eco-designed.”

And not just the product and packaging, but the working practices of the companies.

James Goldsmith, Whirlpool UK managing director, notes that the Cor­­porate Sustainability Reporting Direc­­­­tive (CSRD) that came into effect on January 5 last year, “is significantly impac­­­­­ting house builders, manu­facturers, and retailers by requiring detailed reporting on sustainability.

“This directive applies to certain EU and non-EU companies, necessitating compliance with a wide range of sustainability issues, including climate change, pollution, waste, and biodiversity loss. To be phased in from January 1, 2024, they represent a substantial shift towards transparency and accountability.”

Franke’s Maris Water Hub instant boiling water tap has an ECO-cartridge that promises a 50% water saving.

Additionally, as touched on earlier, the Government is introducing mandatory water-efficiency labels by 2025. Sinks, taps, dishwashers, washing machines – anything that uses water – will have to have efficiency labels to help consumers reduce water usage and save money.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that sus­­­tain­­­­ability is the new way, and innovation, business practices, legis­lation and consumer sentiment will continue in that direction.

The kitchen industry is an integral part of the sustainability story and in many ways is at the forefront of creating a more sustainable future when it comes to the home environment.

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