IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Social and Environmental Attributes of Food Products in an Emerging Mass Market : Challenges of Signaling and Consumer Perception, With European Illustrations

Listed author(s):
  • Jean-Marie Codron

    (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - UMR MOISA - Place Viala - 34060 Montpellier Cedex 1 - FRANCE)

  • Lucie Sirieix

    (Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Montpellier - UMR MOISA - Place Viala - 34060 Montpellier Cedex 1 - FRANCE)

  • Thomas Reardon

    (Department of Agricultural Economics - Michigan State University - East Lansing, Michigan - USA)

This paper focuses on the environmental and ethical attributes of food products and their production processes. These two aspects have been recently recognized and are becoming increasingly important, in terms of signaling and of consumer perception. There are two thematic domains: environmental and social. Within each domain there are two movements. Hence the paper first presents the four movements that have brought to the fore new aspects of food product quality, to wit: (1) aspects of environmental ethics (organic agriculture and integrated agriculture) and (2)social ethics (fair trade and ethical trade). Then it describes how the actors in the movements producers, retailers, NGOs, and governments) are organized and how consumers perceive each of the movements. From the perspective of the actors in the movements themselves, the movements are grouped into two 'actors' philosophies' : a “radical” philosophy (the organic production and fair trade movements that arose in radical opposition to conventional agriculture or unfair trade relations) and a “reformist” philosophy (the integrated agriculture and ethical trade movements that arose as efforts to modify but not radically change conventional agriculture). From the point of view of consumers, the classification of the movements is based on perceptions of the 'domain' of the movements. That is, consumers tend to perceive as a grouping the organic production movement and the integrated agricultural movement, as they both deal with the environment. By contrast, consumers tend to group the fair trade movement and the ethical trade movement, as they both deal essentially with social ethics. Recently, key players such as large retailers and agribusinesses have adopted as part of their overall quality assurance programs both the environmental and the ethical attributes. Their involvement in and adoption of the goals of the movements have, however, generated tensions and conflicts, in particular within the radical movements, because of concerns of cooptation. The paper identifies challenges for those promoting food products with environmental and social/ethical attributes to communicate coherent signals to consumers at this crucial moment of an emerging mass market for these products.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Industrial Organization with number 0512002.

in new window

Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: 02 Dec 2005
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0512002
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 38
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. P. De Pelsmacker & L. Driesen & G. Rayp, 2003. "Are fair trade labels good business ? Ethics and coffee buying intentions," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 03/165, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
  2. Spencer Henson & Bruce Traill, 2000. "Measuring Perceived Performance of the Food System and Consumer Food-Related Welfare," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 388-404.
  3. Darby, Michael R & Karni, Edi, 1973. "Free Competition and the Optimal Amount of Fraud," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 67-88, April.
  4. Roberts, James A. & Bacon, Donald R., 1997. "Exploring the Subtle Relationships between Environmental Concern and Ecologically Conscious Consumer Behavior," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 79-89, September.
  5. Giovannucci, Daniele & Koekoek, Freek Jan, 2003. "The State of Sustainable Coffee: A Study of Twelve Major Markets," MPRA Paper 17172, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Blend, Jeffrey R. & van Ravenswaay, Eileen O., 1998. "Consumer Demand For Ecolabeled Apples: Survey Methods And Descriptive Results," Staff Papers 11645, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
  7. Laura Raynolds, 2000. "Re-embedding global agriculture: The international organic and fair trade movements," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 17(3), pages 297-309, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0512002. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (EconWPA)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.