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Case study

Nomenclature Assessment for New Materials in the US

Next-gen materials is an overarching category of high performance, sustainable, and animal-free materials developed for the fashion, automotive, and homegoods industries. North Mountain is partnering with Material Innovation Initiative (Napa, CA, US) to establish a consumer research program on next-gen materials used in the fashion, automotive, and homegoods industries.

In this study, we assessed nomenclature options for a new category of high performance materials that are more sustainable than their conventional animal-derived counterparts.


  • We first collected potential names via a stakeholder survey, and then pre-tested names..

  • After pre-testing, we assessed a shortened list of names on three criteria for the overall materials category (appeal, descriptiveness, preference), as well as for appeal across six subcategories of new materials (leather, wool, silk, down, fur, exotic skins).

  • Our sample of consumers (N = 501) was representative of the U.S. population, with interlocked sampling quotas for age, gender, and region.

  • We reported findings from both the general population and the high purchase interest segment.

Select Findings

  • Appeal: Consumers considered eco, animal-free, and next-gen to be the most appealing. The names next-gen and animal-free were consistently most appealing within each of the subcategories (leather, wool, silk, down, fur, exotic skins).

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  • Descriptiveness: Consumers considered vegan, animal-free, and eco to be the most descriptive. .

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  • Preference: After considering both appeal and descriptiveness factors, consumers selected next-gen, animal-free, and eco as top choices.

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  • The findings were generally consistent for both the general population and the high purchase interest segment.


  • Considering this study’s findings and each term’s differentiation potential, we recommend next-gen as an overarching, consumer-friendly category term, which can be used in conjunction with product- and technology-specific names.


  • Open-ended responses showed the term next-gen cues innovation, and may better describe a new category of materials which has multiple characteristics (i.e., sustainable, animal-free, and high performance). In contrast, the term eco could describe environmentally-friendly products that are not necessarily high performance or vegan, and animal-free could describe vegan products that are not necessarily high performance or environmentally-friendly.


  • However, nomenclature choices should be highly context-dependent. The relative importance of each of these criteria (appeal, descriptiveness, preference, differentiation, and suitability for sub-categories) will need to be weighed in order to determine appropriate nomenclature in each context.

Learn more


  • We are in the process of conducting a segmentation study to understand US consumer attitudes, perspectives of desirability and functionality, and purchase interest in common types of products. We expect to publish this study in September 2021.



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