Does the packaging make the product? Identifying consumers’ preference for “natural” in packaging
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Today's consumer is interested in safe food products and foods with "natural" ingredients. The main objective of this study was to determine consumers' purchasing decisions for ground beef labeled with different packaging technologies, specifically modified atmosphere packaging using carbon monoxide in the package atmosphere and "natural" ingredients such as rosemary extract. Choice experiments with ground beef, conducted in Germany, were used to quantify consumers' valuations of the technology-related attributes of shelf life, color, and types of packaging. Consumers placed positive values on extended shelf life and light red and cherry red colors. However, informing consumers about the specific technologies used altered their preferences for the benefits of the associated technology. Our findings suggest that consumers place a positive value on the use of the technology, yet may be confused about the use of a technology that cannot be distinguished from the product itself. This response indicates that consumer trust in the product is diluted. Understanding consumer response to information and labeling is key to developing effective policies on product labeling and warnings.