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Price-based quality inferences for insects as food

Sebastian Berger (Universitat Bern, Bern, Switzerland)
Fabian Christandl (Hochschule Fresenius, Cologne, Germany)
Christina Schmidt (Universität zu Köln, Cologne, Germany)
Christian Baertsch (Hochschule St Gallen, St Gallen, Switzerland)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 12 July 2018

Issue publication date: 7 August 2018

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Abstract

Purpose

Entomophagy (i.e. human insect consumption) is seen as one promising route to substantially reduce food-related carbon footprints as insects can be produced at a fraction of the carbon emitted by traditional Western meat production (e.g. beef, pork, poultry). In this light, the purpose of this paper is to address how prices may affect preferences for insects as food.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on consumer research on “positive” functions of prices (e.g. the widely held belief that price and quality are positively correlated), the authors present two behavioural experiments that manipulated price cues to estimate the effect on expectations, eating behaviour and willingness-to-pay as central preference indicators.

Findings

Consistent with the predictions, high prices as initial anchors positively affect food preferences. Furthermore, they incur a positive spill-over effect to subsequent consumption of insects that are unprocessed (i.e. truffles in which mealworms are visible in their entity) and for which no price information is available. Additionally, the authors show that the positive effects of high prices on preferences are muted if prices are artificially lowered (e.g. by means of government subsidies, Experiment 2).

Practical implications

Taken together, the authors show that preferences for novel foods such as insects can be promoted by systematically taking into account behavioural economic theories. This suggests that behavioural theory can be used to reap environmental benefits of entomophagy.

Originality/value

This research links behavioural economics with the actual consumption of insects and therefore complements survey research on behavioural intentions.

Keywords

Citation

Berger, S., Christandl, F., Schmidt, C. and Baertsch, C. (2018), "Price-based quality inferences for insects as food", British Food Journal, Vol. 120 No. 7, pp. 1615-1627. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-08-2017-0434

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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