Academic journal article Agricultural Economics Review

Quality Perception of PDO Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Which Attributes Most Influence Italian Consumers?

Academic journal article Agricultural Economics Review

Quality Perception of PDO Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Which Attributes Most Influence Italian Consumers?

Article excerpt

Abstract

Given the regional dimension has become an extremely widespread concern in recent investigations of agro-food economics, this study aims at detecting extra-virgin olive oil's main attributes through a qualitative analysis of consumer behaviour in Sicily and in some Italian metropolitan areas (Rome and Milan), in order to identify the main variables that affect local with respect to regional production. The paper's aim is to inform olive oil stakeholders about consumer preferences regarding extra-virgin olive oil attributes, that include area of origin, geographical designation (PDO and PGI), organic certification and price. The aforementioned attributes constitute an additional factor of overall perceived quality, and verify if the perception of quality varies among consumers in different geographic areas. Findings emphasise the leading role that price plays and highlights how Italian olive oil consumers are positively influenced by an organic method of production and PDO certification. Furthermore, consumers from traditional olive oil production areas tend to identify their local extra-virgin olive oil as superior to others. Consumers from areas not traditionally olive oil producers consider price to be an indicator of quality and often purchase more expensive extra-virgin olive oil.

Keyword: geographical origin, Italian consumers, conjoint analysis, olive oil attributes.

JEL Codes: Q13, L15.

1. Introduction

Over the previous two decades, the certification of agro-food products has gained importance within the European Union. However, not all consumers have reaped satisfactory benefits from it. In many cases consumers have revealed an inadequate level of knowledge in their ability to identify and recognise the specific characteristics which might be employed in distinguishing high quality goods from those of a lower quality (Vecchio and Annunziata, 2011; Cicia et al, 2012)

This is the reason for which the European Union decided to develop a reputation for high-quality European products, introducing a specific rule system in order to better regulate the origin and the certification of agro-food products.

Over the past 70 years, many definitions have been proposed for the expression "origin of a product". One of these is: a typical product, regional or traditional, whose quality and characteristics are strongly linked to the geographical name of the area of production (country, region or locality), and the human and natural resources of that area. Nowadays PDO or PGI certifications ensure not only the origin of the product, but guarantee ties to particular agro-climatic conditions, production practices and "savoirfaire", as well as ties to the "terroir" (Valceschini, 1993; D'Amico et al. 2011; Allaire et al., 2011).

Geographical Indications constitute an effective differentiation tool in food markets (Deselnicu et al. 2011) and, at the same time, origin is an important attribute for both consumer and industrial product evaluations (Nagashima, 1977; Obermiller and Spangenberg, 1989; Verlegh and Steenkamp, 1999; Di Vita et al., 2013), being perceived as a quality indicator (Malorgio et al., 2008).

Typical products receive more favorable consumer attitudes and stronger country of origin images than atypical ones (Tseng and Balabanis, 2011). However, other characteristics also influence consumer attitudes. According to previous studies on product attributes (Nelson, 1970; Caswell and Mojduszka, 1996) intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics have been observed and investigated for PDO products (Fandos and Flavián, 2006; Espejel et ah, 2007; Cembalo et al. 2008). A significant "relationship between the extrinsic and intrinsic attributes of a traditional food product and loyalty expressed by consumers" has been detected and is perceived as an indication of the quality of a product. This allows consumers to differentiate the high-quality products from those of a lower quality (Jacoby and Olson, 1985; Steenkamp, 1987; Zeithaml, 1988) and shows a positive and significant influence on buying intentions (Fandos and Flavián, 2006; Josiassen et al. …

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