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Consumers' perception of risk: the case of beef purchases in Irish supermarkets

Susan A. Hornibrook (Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK)
Mary McCarthy (Department of Food Business and Development, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland)
Andrew Fearne (Centre for Food Chain Research, Imperial College at Wye, Ashford, Kent, UK)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 1 October 2005




For supermarkets in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, the strategic importance of own label or retail brands is crucial, with sales of fresh beef almost exclusively sold under the retail brand. Given safety and quality issues, this study seeks to understand pre‐pack consumers' perceptions of risk associated with beef in the Republic of Ireland.


Building on previous qualitative research, and using a survey methodology and adopting a perceived risk theoretical framework, face‐to‐face interviews with purchasers of pre‐pack beef from supermarkets were conducted in Cork, Waterford and Limerick.


The results confirm that for these particular beef purchasers, food safety and health issues are still the main concerns. However, perceptions of risk are reduced through loyalty to supermarkets, confirming that the investment by retailers in supply chain policies and strategies has paid off in terms of reducing customers' perceptions of risk associated with food safety.

Research limitations/implications

One limitation of the research is that perceptions of risk and coping strategies are specific to the product category; therefore, results cannot be generalised to other categories.

Practical implications

The findings demonstrate that a more focussed approach to marketing beef could include strategies based upon understanding particular aspects of perceived risk.


A deeper understanding of consumers' risk perceptions and risk reducing strategies is necessary as consumers' perceptions of risk can both respond to and influence the strategies adopted at both firm and industry level. In particular, an understanding of perceived risk is particularly necessary for retailers following an own brand strategy in general.



Hornibrook, S.A., McCarthy, M. and Fearne, A. (2005), "Consumers' perception of risk: the case of beef purchases in Irish supermarkets", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 33 No. 10, pp. 701-715.



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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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