Academic journal article Contemporary Management Research

Does Money for Grocery Expenditure Sway Italian Consumers' Motivational Values in Predicting Attitude towards Eco- Sustainable Food Products?

Academic journal article Contemporary Management Research

Does Money for Grocery Expenditure Sway Italian Consumers' Motivational Values in Predicting Attitude towards Eco- Sustainable Food Products?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study attempts to explain how the motivational domains of Schwartz's theory of basic human values influence Italian consumers' attitude towards buying eco-sustainable food products and the extent to which the average monthly amount of money available in households for grocery expenditure may modify this influence. A conceptual model of attitude with the high-order dimensions of the Schwartz's taxonomy of human values and past experience as predictors has been hypothesized and performed on a representative sample (i.e., on regional basis and age categories) of Italian food consumers (n = 2760). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used as the methodology. Italian consumers' households with an average monthly amount of less than 400 Euros for grocery expenditures showed universal values and self-enhancement motivations in supporting their positive attitude towards eco-sustainable food products, but with a significant reduction of their openness to change and conservation in disfavor of these products. Consumers with more than 400 Euros showed attenuated universal and conservation values, but with less openness to change and self-enhancement motives. In conclusion, it has seemed that in Italy, where no legal requirements about sustainability have been established yet, being an ethical and universal food consumer still strongly depends on how much money one is able to spend rather than on how ethical or universal one wants to be.

Keywords: Attitude towards Behavior, Eco-sustainable Foods, High-order Factors, Schwartz's Theory of Basic Human Values, Structural Equation Modeling

INTRODUCTION

It is well accepted that one of the most troubling environmental challenges that mankind has to address concerns its unsustainable consumption patterns and lifestyles (European Environment Agency, 2005; United Nations, 2002). This has inevitably compelled the food industries to improve the environmental performance of food products, the governments to promote policies for the development of eco-sustainable processes (Vermeir & Verbeke, 2008) and the consumers to contribute to the resolution of ecological and social problems (Schrader & Thøgersen, 2011). According to Schraefel (2013), who paraphrased Sellahewa and Martindale (2010), the best way to improve sustainability of human-food through the food lifecycle is basically to consume less in terms of "growing consumer demand for better soil practices to consume less energy/resource, understanding food provenance to reduce transport costs of food, reducing food packaging, make more food packaging recyclable, increasing composting of food waste..." (Schraefel, 2013: p. 595). However, these ways of consuming less might appear to be somewhat remote for most consumers (Peattie, 2010). On the other hand, Thøgersen (2010: p. 172) found that the three most effective ways to support sustainability in consumers' food consumption were "1) to reduce the amount of meat, especially beef, in the diet; 2) to buy organic instead of conventionally produced food products; 3) to avoid food products transported by airplane". So, in what way, and in how many ways, do consumers need to behave in order to be sustainable?

Despite the extent of literature on sustainable food consumption, a common understanding of this phenomenon has not yet been reached (Schrader & Thøgersen, 2011). Moreover, there is not even a clear definition or standard for environmentally friendly products (Sellahewa & Martindale, 2010), or any common way of putting sustainable food consumption into practice (i.e., consuming many sustainable food products means following a sustainable diet?) (Reisch, Eberle & Lorek, 2013). Furthermore, the ongoing debate about whether the context (e.g., governmental policies, food companies) or individual consumers' values, attitudes and motivations is more important for accepting sustainability on the whole is still ongoing (Schrader & Thøgersen, 2011), even though it is generally recognized that consumers have co-responsibility for the consequences of their choices (Hansen & Schrader, 1997) and that the negative impacts of their consumption patterns need to be reduced in order to achieve sustainability (Schrader & Thøgersen, 2011). …

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