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 University3 Marketing and Sustainability, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University4 Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University5 Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC), Max Planck Institute for Human Development6 Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
The aim of the study was to provide a realistic assessment of (a) the amount and type of information that consumers would use in choices between second-generation novel foods and different types of competitor products, (b) the amount and type of information that consumers would access from general novel-food information sites, and (c) the effect of the different types of information on product preferences and attitudes towards novel foods and food technologies. Three paradigmatic novel food examples were used in the study: a genetically modified potato with altered levels of inherent toxicants (glycoalkaloids), mutation-bred rice with lowered levels of an anti-nutrient (phytic acid), and functional food ingredients of a natural origin (phytosterols). A representative sample of 726 Danish consumers participated in a web experiment. In the first part of the experiment, information uptake in realistic product choice situations was monitored. Each participant completed three choice tasks, involving different categories of consumer products (basmati rice, milk, frozen sliced potatoes). Within each choice set, one product alternative was based on the second-generation novel foods used as paradigmatic examples in this study, one was a conventional competitor product, and one was an organic product. A newly developed process-tracing method allowed the unobtrusive monitoring of attribute information uptake from photos of product packages. In the second part of the experiment, information access in an internet-based novel food information portal was monitored. The altogether 72 types of information in the portal had been constructed from a completely crossed factorial design with the factors (a) novel food category, (b) information source, (c) information content, and (d) information type. Participants could access as much information as they wanted in any sequence. Information access was unobtrusively monitored. The results indicate that an average of 5-7% of consumers can be expected to read detail information on product labels or access publicly available information from novel food information portals. In almost all instances, even active consideration of information about the health-related functional properties of a novel food had no significant effects on the likelihood that consumers would choose the product. For a vast majority of consumers, novel foods are apparently not an issue. Any type of information about risks and benefits of novel foods is likely to be ignored by most consumers - not only before novel foods receive approval for marketing, but also when such information is disclosed on the packages of foods available in the supermarket.