1 Department of Marketing and Statistics, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 MAPP - Centre for Research on Customer Relations in the Food Sector, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Today's EU animal production systems face a major challenge. On one hand, they must deal with society's demand for production strategies that are safer, more environmental-friendly and ensure better animal welfare. On the other hand, they have to address food suppliers' aspirations for economic sustainability, good public image and added value products. The study of consumers' perceptions and beliefs regarding different meat and fish production systems, as well as their incorporation in the design of ethically-improved foods and supply chains, is key in providing successful answers to this challenge. Moreover, the ability to quantify consumers' willingness-to-pay for new, ethically-improved foods is vital for the economic sustainability of the animal production sector, as well as for the generation of addedvalue products. This abstract presents the outcome of a pilot study of Dutch consumers' willingness-to-pay for fresh fish originating from production systems with different levels of ethical attributes. Experimental auction markets1,2 constituted the methodology employed. This type of auctions simulates active market environments with the aim of estimating consumers' valuations of goods and uncovering the determinants of these valuations, namely the effect of different attribute levels. Consequently, it can assist producers in establishing the design and pricing strategy for new or modified goods (such as fish-based foods originating from production systems with higher levels of ethical attributes), and determining the potential profitability of producing and selling these products while they are still in a conceptual phase. Fifteen Dutch citizens living in the province of Noord-Holland and being regular consumers of fresh fish were selected to participate in this study. Two ninety-minute research sessions were held in December 2003. Information regarding the participants and the perceived relevance of different ethical attributes of fish production systems was collected prior to the actual auctions. The ethical attributes were chosen based on results from collage and focus group studies conducted previously3,4. The type of auction employed was the second-price, sealed bid auction. The results obtained give some indication that Dutch consumers' might be willing to pay more for ethical benefits, namely those perceived to be associated with safety. Nevertheless, our findings also indicate that these consumers might not always be consistent in their valuations of the ethical attributes considered to be relevant, which often contradict their previously stated beliefs about fish production systems.