Does taste beat food safety? Evidence from the Pera Rocha case in Portugal
Until recently, fresh fruits such as pears were provided to markets as generic products. However, these products are now differentiated by cultivars, origins and appearances, as well as by companies production and processing methods. Therefore, we observe a lot of denominations of origin, retailers and private labels in order to signal the differentiation to the consumers, who are often willing to pay large price premiums for products with specific attributes. Indeed the value consumers put on fruits depends on the degree of product-information that are available to them and this information derives mainly from tasting and from the label of the products. In this paper, we used an experimental auction to investigate how quality attributes information affects consumers willingness to pay for different types of pears, particularly choosing the Portuguese "Rocha" pear variety. The BDM auction mechanism was combined with sensory analyses in order to develop an integrated approach to evaluate product attributes. The main results show that information on the products characteristics related to food safety instantly influences consumers willingness to pay. However, it appears that sensory intrinsic attributes related to taste finally beats the guarantee of food safety in driving the buying behaviour.
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