John Peloza's paper with Mirella Kleijnen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and Anna De Visser-Amundson (Hotelschool The Hague), “How Association with Physical Waste Attenuates Consumer Preferences for Rescue-Based Food," has been published online in the Journal of Marketing Research.
In an effort to combat food waste, many firms have introduced rescue-based foods (RBF) which are made from ingredients that are safe to eat but would otherwise bewasted, often due to aesthetic deviations or oversupply. Although the benefits to RBF are varied, some firms adopt strategies that highlight waste reduction properties, such as reduced landfill use or lowered impacts on the environment. The current research posits that when firms adopt strategies that highlight physical waste associations with RBF, those associations can generate negative mental imagery with consumers, which can trigger disgust and mitigate positive consumer attitudes toward RBF. We demonstrate that when such associations are not present, demand is consistent with demand for conventional food products. We find support for the role of mental imagery in this demand mitigation process, with some promotional appeals stimulating thoughts of physical waste. Counterintuitively, the current research reveals that when marketers adopt the common practice of using environmental benefit appeals that can trigger waste physical associations, such as the color green, consumer demand for rescue-based food diminishes. Conversely, focusing on the societal benefits or limiting the number of cues available to create physical waste associations generates consumer demand for these foods to a level equivalent to that for conventional food.