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Challenges of carbon labelling of food products: a consumer research perspective

Elin Röös (Department of Energy and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden)
Heléne Tjärnemo (Department of Work Science, Business Economics and Environmental Psychology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Alnarp, Sweden)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 9 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to critically reflect on the effects that carbon labelling of food products will have on consumer purchasing behaviour and on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.


The paper summarises the findings from research on organic food‐purchasing behaviour and discusses how this can be applied to the new field of carbon labelling of food. Two consumer behaviour studies specifically examining carbon labelling are also reviewed.


Although consumers have positive attitudes to preserving the environment, sales of organic products are low for several reasons: perceived high price, strong habits governing food purchases, perceived low availability, lack of marketing and information, lack of trust in the labelling system, and low perceived customer effectiveness. All these obstacles apply to the purchase of carbon labelled products and several are even greater for carbon‐labelled products, since these do not bring any personal benefits to the consumer, unlike the perceived case for organic products.

Practical implications

A carbon labelling scheme must be introduced carefully to avoid confusing the consumer. The goal of the carbon labelling system must be defined, and the label and labelling system designed and managed to meet that goal.


Lessons learned from the abundant research on purchasing behaviour regarding organic food are applied to the new field of carbon labelling for the first time. Fields in need of further research for the successful introduction of carbon labelling schemes are identified.



Röös, E. and Tjärnemo, H. (2011), "Challenges of carbon labelling of food products: a consumer research perspective", British Food Journal, Vol. 113 No. 8, pp. 982-996.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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