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Sustainability labelling as a challenge to legitimacy: spillover effects of organic Fairtrade coffee on consumer perceptions of mainstream products and retailers

Angela Anagnostou (Department of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
Paul T.M. Ingenbleek (Department of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands)
Hans C.M. van Trijp (Department of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 14 September 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to better understand the impact of norm-challenging products on consumers’ perceptions of mainstream products and retailers. By showing that sustainable market offerings are feasible, products with sustainability labels, such as Fairtrade and organic products, implicitly question the legitimacy of mainstream brands in the market.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses an experiment, based on scenarios that portray the consumer in a shopping situation for their usual coffee brand when they encounter an organic Fairtrade coffee. The paper distinguishes a situation in which the sustainable and the mainstream products compete, from a situation in which the two brands collaborate.

Findings

The results show that norm-challenging products deteriorate perceptions of mainstream products and the companies that produce them but improve the image of retailers that include these products in their assortment. If labelled products are sold under the heading of mainstream brands, they still spill over negatively to other products of that brand but positively to the brand company.

Practical implications

The spillover effects of norm-challenging products to mainstream companies are an incentive for mainstream firms to enhance the sustainability of their activities.

Originality/value

Whereas much literature has focused on the first steps of creating awareness among consumers for sustainability, this paper is the first that tries to understand how typical consumers of mainstream brands develop preferences for products that are more sustainable.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality for co-financing this study. The funder under scribed the goals of the project but was not involved in any of the research activities. The authors thank Marieke Meeusen for her helpful comments on a prior version of this article.

Citation

Anagnostou, A., Ingenbleek, P.T.M. and van Trijp, H.C.M. (2015), "Sustainability labelling as a challenge to legitimacy: spillover effects of organic Fairtrade coffee on consumer perceptions of mainstream products and retailers", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 422-431. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCM-11-2014-1213

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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