Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 597–609 | Cite as

Product differentiation via corporate social responsibility: consumer priorities and the mediating role of food labels

  • Marco Costanigro
  • Oana Deselnicu
  • Dawn Thilmany McFadden


This article examines quantitatively the determinants of purchase decisions based on corporate social responsibility (CSR), adopting a hierarchical conceptual model of decision making where the key factors are personal concern, information availability and financial considerations. We use best–worst methods to assess consumer priorities (personal concern) for CSR activities in milk production; and elicit consumer interpretation of four labels (organic, Validus, Colorado Proud and rBST free) in terms of CSR and other outcomes (information availability). We then elicit willingness to pay (WTP) for the labels (financial considerations), and estimate regression models to determine how predictive each label perceptual profile is of WTP for milk. Animal welfare and sustainable agricultural practices are the most important activities, and milk labels do convey CSR-related messages. With the exception of the pair animal welfare-Validus, the link between CSR messages and WTP is tenuous. The discussion emphasizes the central role of each label’s perceptual profile in triggering product differentiation among consumers.


Corporate social responsibility Valuation Organic Animal welfare Max-diff Best–worst 



We are grateful to Aurora Organic Dairy in Colorado for providing the funding for the experiment and research assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Costanigro
    • 1
  • Oana Deselnicu
    • 2
  • Dawn Thilmany McFadden
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Resource EconomicsColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.OracleBroomfieldUSA
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural and Resource EconomicsColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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