Consumers Never Heard of ‘Biobased’ – But Know It’s Green

New "BioPreferred” label - 400 products already submitted

Most consumers say that biobased products are green – even though only a minority recognize the term “biobased”, according to research by a biotechnology company. According to the Genencor Household Sustainability Index, 72 percent of U.S. consumers and 70 percent of Canadians said biobased ethanol fuel for vehicles is definitely, or is likely to be,”green”.

When asked about biobased laundry or dishwasher detergents, 79 percent of U.S. and 83 percent of Canadian consumers said those products are probably or definitely green. But despite consumers’ confidence in assessing the environmental credentials of biobased products, the survey found that just four in ten American consumers and about a third of Canadian consumers have heard of the term “biobased” to describe products.

And while consumers may be confident that biobased products are green, they have “a noticeable degree of skepticism” about whether products claiming to green actually benefit the environment, the report found. Over a third of consumers surveyed – 37 percent in the U.S. and 33 percent in Canada – said they were “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that green products were better for the environment.

The poll also asked consumers what makes “green” products better for the environment. “Few or no toxic materials/ingredients” was the top answer for 22 percent of Americans and 36 percent of Canadians. Other popular choices were “breaks down naturally when disposed of”, “generates less pollution from manufacture or use”, and “can be recycled or reused”.

Some of the least popular answers were “fewer phosphates”, “no harmful health effects” and “made from biobased materials”. And a whopping 34 percent of U.S. consumers, and 32 percent of Canadians, said either “other” or “don’t know/not applicable”.

“The findings indicate that consumers are prepared to actively choose biobased products, especially those consumers who are familiar with green products and are generally confident about their environmental claims,” said Tjerk de Ruiter, CEO of Genencor, which makes enzymes used in nearly 400 consumer and commercial products, including many green household materials.

In April the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that 60 products had been awarded its then-new “BioPreferred” label for biobased products. Brands Hoover, DuPont and Seventh Generation were among the companies earning the right to use the BioPreferred seal. At last count, 100 companies had submitted applications for about 400 products since the program started in January.

Products can qualify for the label in one of two ways:

  • Those within pre-identified product categories must meet the minimum biobased content of that category.
  • Those that do not fall within a pre-identified category must be 25 percent biobased, or the applicant can apply for an alternative minimum biobased content allowance.


Environmental Leader, 2011-05-10.


US Department of Agriculture (USDA)


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