These days, price and taste are not the only factors influencing grocery shoppers’ decisions to buy. Some also want to know how and where a product was produced or caught. Enter the “eco-label” that certifies dolphin-safe tuna, organic pasta, and fair-trade coffee. Researchers at the Food Innovation Center are studying how this kind of packaging can affect shoppers’ behavior, choices, and thinking.
“Eco-labels can connect with consumers’ attitudes about the environment, health, and social justice,” said Cathy Durham, a marketing economist at the center. In one study, shoppers showed a preference for apples packaged with eco-labels over those produced and labeled in a conventional way—at an appropriate price point. In other words, eco-labels can positively influence consumer decisions if the price is right.
Durham has also studied the feasibility of an artisan cheese industry in Oregon, how local foods are defined and marketed, and the differences in consumer attitudes toward wine bottles topped with corks or screw caps. “In the food business, competition is fierce and the cost of marketing is high,” Durham said. “The center’s consumer research can reduce risk and help pave the way for success in the market.”