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Sustainability labels on food products: Consumer motivation, understanding and use


  • Grunert, Klaus G.
  • Hieke, Sophie
  • Wills, Josephine


This study investigates the relationship between consumer motivation, understanding and use of sustainability labels on food products (both environmental and ethical labels), which are increasingly appearing on food products. Data was collected by means of an online survey implemented in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Poland, with a total sample size of 4408 respondents. Respondents expressed medium high to high levels of concern with sustainability issues at the general level, but lower levels of concern in the context of concrete food product choices. Understanding of the concept of sustainability was limited, but understanding of four selected labels (Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Carbon Footprint, and Animal Welfare) was better, as some of them seem to be self-explanatory. The results indicated a low level of use, no matter whether use was measured as self-reported use of different types of information available on food labels or as use inferred from the results of a choice-based conjoint analysis. Hierarchical regression indicated that use is related to both motivation and understanding, and that both motivation, understanding and use are affected by demographic characteristics, human values as measured by the Schwartz value domains, and country differences. The results imply that sustainability labels currently do not play a major role in consumers’ food choices, and future use of these labels will depend on the extent to which consumers’ general concern about sustainability can be turned into actual behaviour.

Suggested Citation

  • Grunert, Klaus G. & Hieke, Sophie & Wills, Josephine, 2014. "Sustainability labels on food products: Consumer motivation, understanding and use," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 177-189.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:44:y:2014:i:c:p:177-189
    DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2013.12.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

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