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Sustainable Food Consumption: Exploring the Consumer “Attitude – Behavioral Intention” Gap

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Abstract

Although public interest in sustainability increases and consumer attitudes are mainly positive, behavioral patterns are not univocally consistent with attitudes. This study investigates the presumed gap between favorable attitude towards sustainable behavior and behavioral 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 analyzed. 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.

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Correspondence to Iris Vermeir.

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Vermeir, I., Verbeke, W. Sustainable Food Consumption: Exploring the Consumer “Attitude – Behavioral Intention” Gap. J Agric Environ Ethics 19, 169–194 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-005-5485-3

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