Effects of consumer information and direct product experience
Previous research concerning public perception of GM foods indicates that European consumers hold firm negative attitudes to GM foods. These attitudes, however, are not based on risk-benefit evaluations of particular products. Rather, they seem to be a function of general sociopolitical attitudes and values. Two policies can be adopted in such a situation: (a) consumers can be actively informed regarding the risks and benefits and (b) consumers can be given the opportunity to evaluate products on the basis of direct experience. The effectiveness of both policies was tested in two experiments. In esperiment 1, attitude change experiments were conducted with consumers from Denmark, Germany, Italy and the UK (N=1650). Different information strategies were tested against a control group for their ability to change consumers' attitudes and their influence on product choice. Results indicate that no attitude change occured. Instead, all strategies seemed to bolster pre-existing attitudes, thereby significantly decreasing consumers' preferences for GM products. The effect did not occur when consumers only saw a labeled product example. In experiment 2, we tested the effects of direct experience on consumers' attitudes and product preferences. Preferences for different cheeses were elicited under different tasting conditions from Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish consumers (N=753) and scaled by means of conjoint analysis. Results indicate that direct tasting experience had a positive effect on consumers' attitudes and preferences for GM foods. The effect was particular strong when the product offered additional health benefits.