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Sustainable food consumption: exploring the consumer "attitude-behavioral intention" gap

By I. Vermeir, W. Verbeke

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Although public interest in sustainability increases and consumer attitudes are mainly positive, behavioural patterns are not univocally consistent with attitudes. This study investigates the presumed gap between favourable attitude towards sustainable behaviour and behavioural intention to purchase sustainable food products. The impact of involvement, perceived availability, certainty, perceived consumer effectiveness (PCE), values, and social norms on consumers' attitudes and intentions towards sustainable food products is analysed. The empirical research builds on a survey with a sample of 456 young consumers, using a questionnaire and an experimental design with manipulation of key constructs through showing advertisements for sustainable dairy. Involvement with sustainability, certainty, and PCE have a significant positive impact on attitude towards buying sustainable dairy products, which in turn correlates strongly with intention to buy. Low perceived availability of sustainable products explains why intentions to buy remain low, although attitudes might be positive. On the reverse side, experiencing social pressure from peers (social norm) explains intentions to buy, despite rather negative personal attitudes. This study shows that more sustainable and ethical food consumption can be stimulated through raising involvement, PCE, certainty, social norms, and perceived availability.

Date 2006
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 169-194
ISBN/ISSN 1187-7863
DOI 10.1007/s10806-005-5485-3
Language English
Author Address Department of Business Administration, Hogeschool Gent, Voskenslaan 270, B-9000 Gent, Belgium.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  3. Belgium
  4. Cattle
  5. Consumers
  6. Developed countries
  7. Europe
  8. Food economics
  9. Food production
  10. Milk and dairy products
  11. OECD countries
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Social psychology and social anthropology
  14. social values
  15. sustainability
  1. peer-reviewed