The objective of this study is to examine whether sustainability labels like Fair Trade have a spin‐off effect to mainstream products in the consumer perception: do consumers perceive mainstream products and brands more negatively in the presence of a product with a sustainability label?
Five scientific experiments were conducted to test the spin‐off effect of products with sustainability labels on evaluations of mainstream products. Experiments vary with respect to product category, label, respondents, and stimuli. Next, a focus group study was conducted to further explain the findings.
The results show that a spin‐off effect of sustainability labels in the consumer perception is unlikely. None of the experiments shows a significant spin‐off effect, neither directly, nor under the conditions of quality differences between supermarkets, search behaviour of consumers, presence of competing labels, and different involvement categories. Also, a variety of different types of stimuli (scenarios and visual) and research designs (experiments and focus group interviews) did not reveal the hypothesized effect.
The results imply that retailers' fears for a negative spin‐off effect of products with sustainability labels to the rest of the assortment hold little ground. Although the evidence is consistent over different designs, stimuli, contexts, and dependent variables, only a limited range of stimuli‐method combinations is tested.
This study is the first to investigate the existence of a spin‐off effect from products with a sustainability label to mainstream products.
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