This paper investigates the effectiveness of a new traceability label on consumer willingness to buy the labelled product and whether the effect is mediated by moral affective evaluations of the product. A betweensubjects factorial design was used to test (a) the effect of a new traceability label on willingness to buy a chocolate bar, while controlling for different product features (health disclaimer, product quality) and (b) whether this effect was mediated through the consumer’s moral affective evaluations of the product. A broad sample of 1,064 ordinary Danish consumers was recruited for the study from the panel of an online sample provider (667 women, 397 men), age range 18–80 (M = 46.39, SD = 13.17). We found that the traceability label has a significant impact on consumer willingness to buy a chocolate bar. This impact is mediated by moral affective evaluations of the chocolate bar. Based on the dual process models of persuasion (HSM and ELM), we conclude that consumers mainly process the traceability label in a heuristic way, through a peripheral route, making a fast and frugal, affect-based judgment, rather than one based on elaborate reasoning. Being one of the first empirical studies on the impact of a traceability label on consumer willingness to buy a product, it provides valuable insights for businesses on the effects of a traceability label on consumer behaviour. In addition, it provides new insights on the process through which an ethical label influences consumer evaluations and purchase behaviour. This study is, to the best of our knowledge, the first to show that an ethical label influences consumer decision-making through activating a holistic moral affective evaluation of the offering, rather than through strengthening the consumer’s knowledge base for a more qualified reasoning process.
Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, Vol 124, Issue 2, p. 283-295