Every day, eco-friendly products face a persistent battle to win the consumer over against a more affordable, often less environmentally friendly, version of itself. Yet, according to the chairman of food company Nestlé, the tide could be turning when it comes to consumer tastes.
"If you look at the millennials, they are the first generation now who are willing consciously to spend more for better quality, for sustainability, for traceability. I think there is a change," Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of Nestlé told CNBC.
"I think that if you're looking at the success stories in the food industry lately you will see that those successes are normally in products which have a relatively high price and it's basically a [success] coming from the new generation. So I would say from this respect there is a change."
A 2015 global online survey by Nielsen reflected Brabeck-Letmathe's comments, with research showing that 66 percent of the 30,000-plus respondents said they would be willing to pay extra for sustainable goods.
Brabeck-Letmathe's comments come on the back of the historic Paris climate change agreement that was adopted by almost 200 countries last December, going into effect on Friday.
And Nestlé itself is part of that charge: it has long played on its own selection of eco-friendly and sustainable goals, including optimizing the environmental impact of its products and improving the environmental performance of its packaging.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Energy for Tomorrow conference in Paris, Brabeck-Letmathe told CNBC that there had been a shift compared to 20 years ago when the only argument was price, however retailers needed to embrace this new dynamic, where price isn't the only factor.
"Twenty years ago, where the only argument was price, this has moved a little bit. Doesn't mean that — in the big mainstream you still have price and unfortunately I would say retailers have not realized this sufficiently."
"Retailers are still fighting only on price, that's why we have this deflationary environment. If you see the confrontation we still have—whether that's in the U.K. or whether it's here in France—it's all about one single thing: price."
"So retailers are living 20 years in the past but the modern consumers are really much more willing to recognize quality, sustainability, and traceability."
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