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Food “buycott” as an ethical choice against mafia in Italy

Sergio Rivaroli (Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Arianna Ruggeri (Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Roberta Spadoni (Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 19 September 2019

Issue publication date: 18 October 2019




As indicated in the Italian law (No. 109-1996), agri-food co-operatives can also play a role in combatting mafia-type systems by choosing to grow their food products in lands confiscated from mafia-type organisations. These food products provide individuals with a new opportunity to fight criminal organisations on the marketplace. The purpose of this study is to explore how people react to a social marketing initiative devoted to promoting food “buycotting” to counteract mafia-type organisations in Italy.


The data were obtained from a convenience sample of 339 Italians, and the study adopted a model inspired by the general theory of marketing ethics. A structural equation model was applied to estimate both the parameter and coefficient functions.


Individuals recognise the ethical value of “buycotting”. However, they perceive this form of critical choice as not yet being fully effective in counteracting mafia-type systems in Italy.

Practical implications

The results suggest that promotional and psychological approaches from marketing literature can be effectively used to influence the consumer’s ethical judgement by selectively communicating and emphasising the benefits of the critical consumption investigated.


This is one of the first studies to address consumers’ ethical judgments and their reactions towards buycotting food as a critical choice to reward socially responsible corporations.



This paper forms part of a special section “Social good and ethics in social marketing for wicked problems”, guest edited by Krzysztof Kubacki, Natalia Szablewska and Ann-Marie Kennedy.

The authors are grateful to the editor and to the three anonymous referees for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Thanks also go to Beatrice Baldi for her editing feedback, and Pietro Novi for data collection.


Rivaroli, S., Ruggeri, A. and Spadoni, R. (2019), "Food “buycott” as an ethical choice against mafia in Italy", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 490-506.



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