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Yamoah, F.A.;  Haque, A.U.;  Yawson, D.E. Food Choice Editing in Favor of Sustainability. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 21 April 2024).
Yamoah FA,  Haque AU,  Yawson DE. Food Choice Editing in Favor of Sustainability. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 21, 2024.
Yamoah, Fred A., Adnan Ul Haque, David Eshun Yawson. "Food Choice Editing in Favor of Sustainability" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 21, 2024).
Yamoah, F.A.,  Haque, A.U., & Yawson, D.E. (2022, August 31). Food Choice Editing in Favor of Sustainability. In Encyclopedia.
Yamoah, Fred A., et al. "Food Choice Editing in Favor of Sustainability." Encyclopedia. Web. 31 August, 2022.
Food Choice Editing in Favor of Sustainability

A vast literature has confirmed that, in several economies, sustainability is a prevailing key problem, particularly in the agri-food industry. Consumers frequently like to associate themselves with sustainable items reflecting higher concern for society, healthy food, or commodities exhibiting greater fairness towards food producers. Worldwide, there is an increased awareness of consumption patterns escalating the demand for the production of sustainable items. Researchers revealed that change interventions have slowly reduced the pace of growth in the food industry, partially because of consumer awareness at a gradual rate. Moreover, sustainable food products are viewed as ineffective in the short run while market share for sustainable items remains substantially low.

consumer psychology choice limitation consumer ethics marketing communication sustainable food policy

1. Introduction

Sustainable Consumption as a Free Choice Consumer Practice

Over the past two decades, sustainable consumption research has progressed in describing challenges and problems associated with the sustainable food sector. For instance, prior research has highlighted the legendary barriers of availability, accessibility, and less variety of sustainable food products in various retail outlets such as supermarkets [1][2][3][4] as major inhibitors to sustainable consumption. Therefore, there were grounds for optimism on the part of sustainability researchers and practitioners that the introduction of sustainable food products into the mainstream environment of supermarkets could help surmount these barriers and promote sustainable food market growth.
Anselmsson and Johansson [5] also underscored the efforts by food marketing managers to draw consumers’ attention to sustainable products through creative merchandising. Yet, recent research shows consumers do not purchase ample amounts of sustainable food products to substantially support the attainment of sustainable development goals in the medium to long term [6][7]. Sustainable food products in the context of this entry refer to products that contribute to a single or a combination of economic, ecological, or social dimension(s) by virtue of their attributes or consequence [8][9].
Admittedly, a major shift towards sustainability requires an entire institutional change [10]. Indeed, Schubert [11] emphasized the need for an institutional overhaul to re-echo that a paradigm shift away from unsustainable production and consumption–‘……requires institutional change, not merely modifying individual behavior at the margin’. Thus, a broadened cross-sectoral, integrative, and stakeholder-oriented research approach that has the potential to resolve comprehensively inhibitors to sustainable food production and consumption is a fundamental requirement [10].
While previous studies have focused on sustainable consumption while covering briefly the role of government, the studies either heavily emphasized the numeric expression to explain the relationship or focused on the importance of sustainable consumption patterns. However, the consumer psychology for or against sustainable choices is understudied. The hidden embedded themes of the consumer’s psychology regarding the choices and preferences remain largely understudied. Previous studies have mainly focused on the consumers’ and the producers’ perspectives while partially engaging the government’s role in the due process, whereas the reasoning for a choice selection of the consumers (especially the consumer’s psychology for selecting or opposing the organic products) have not been explored in depth. Moreover, the producer’s role is often found to be discussed in a descriptive manner. This entry fills the gap by providing a critical take on the producers’ practices and activities as well as the futuristic role of the government in organic/sustainable items production and consumption. Thus, this entry is an attempt to fill the existing gap in the literature by providing a qualitative perspective exploring the research phenomenon. The useful truth (qualitative perspective) is largely missing from the existing literature, while there is over-emphasis on the factual truth (quantitative perspective). This entry also fills the gap in the methodological perspective by offering in-depth insight into the research phenomenon through the qualitative approach. Thus, the current entry seeks to address an important but unexplored area of overt paternalism by examining the psychology behind consumers’ reasons to vote for or against a proposal for the government to legislate food choice editing in favour of sustainable alternatives. Researchers deem this research enquiry as the “elephant in the room of sustainable consumption scholarship”. It is, in researchers' view, a critical issue with huge implications for public health and nutrition status, consumer policy towards sustainable food production, and consumption and consumer ethics. The research is novel as it addresses the elephant in the room of sustainable consumption which has previously been ignored by researchers and academics. There is limited evidence to explore the research phenomenon by bringing the hidden embedded themes through qualitative analysis. The previous studies established the relationship through numeric expression while failing to examine the hidden themes of consumer psychology. Thus, this research is unique and novel in providing an in-depth understanding of the consumers’ vote for or against sustainable items.
The academic novelty includes contributing a new body of knowledge by overcoming numeric expression and exploring the research phenomenon through a qualitative perspective. Thus, this entry has a robust methodology. Moreover, the existing literature needed updated information behind consumer psychology, producers’ existing practice, and the role of the government in the due process–all being covered under one umbrella research. Moreover, the practical implication includes suggested innovative techniques and the promotion of sustainable consumption and production practices and procedures.

2. Consumer Psychology on Food Choice Editing in Favor of Sustainability

A vast literature has confirmed that, in several economies, sustainability is a prevailing key problem, particularly in the agri-food industry [9][10][12][13][14][15]. Furthermore, regarding sustainable food consumption, several attributes are found to be connected to the differentiation of products, thus, assisting and enabling agri-food ventures to increase the value of their respected commodities [12][14][15][16][17]. In addition to that, those organizations that demonstrate the triple bottom approach (caring for people, the planet, and profit) by being ethical, social, and environmentally responsible reflect a higher corporate image [14][18][19]. Nonetheless, the consumers’ psychology and their input are still understudied. The work of Haque et al. [14] carried out in a similar dimension, primarily focused on “amenable to reduce food selection options available in order to offer increased sustainable alternatives” while giving very little scope and detail about why the consumers would/would not be willing to consume sustainable/organic items. Thus, there is a need to explore the in-depth themes that reflect the consumer psychology of two types: (a) those in favor of sustainable consumption and (b) those opposing sustainable consumption practices.
Haque et al. [14] argued that there is still no agreement on a widely accepted definition of sustainability. Equally, the concept of sustainable food has not been studied under one standard approach [10][20]. From the lens of food production, there are several products that are marketed as sustainable items by showing ethical and/or environmental aspects. Labels and certifications are also used to show their credibility so that consumers can easily identify them [21][22]. Some consumers might buy but still may not buy those items. The useful truth must be explored to know the consumer’s psychology behind or against decisions. Interestingly, “per current status, there is no omnibus label for sustainable food, but rather reflected in ethical, social, and environmental elements being the focal point for any scheme is expressed in fairtrade, organic, or eco-labels” [15]; cited from Haque et al. [14].
Discourses on behavior-change intervention have also reinforced the centrality of the food consumer stakeholder as the main actor behind the slow pace of growth of this important industry [3][4][6][7]. Indeed, notable strands of sustainable food consumption scholarship have emerged to promote awareness and behavior change include: (1) Consumer-behavior research focused on closing the attitude-behavior gap [23][24][25] and (2) Green nudges studies [11][26][27][28][29][30][31]. These efforts notwithstanding, it is arguable that strategies based on the ‘attitude-behavior gap’ and ‘green nudges’ research aimed at promoting the patronage of sustainable food products appear ineffective in the short term, as their impact on the market share of the sustainable food industry has been minimal [7][32]. Therefore, the sense of optimism that heralded mainstreaming of sustainable food products into the mainstream environment of supermarkets has not significantly engendered sustainable consumption. This situation serves to remind researchers and practitioners about the dynamic and complex nature of consumer behavior and the need to explore research avenues beyond attitude-behavior gaps and nudges to promote sustainable consumption.
Consumers frequently like to associate themselves with sustainable items reflecting higher concern for society, healthy food, or commodities exhibiting greater fairness towards food producers [14][33]. Worldwide, there is an increased awareness of consumption patterns escalating the demand for the production of sustainable items [14][34][35]. Globalization has significantly influenced the expansion of the market by reducing boundaries for the exchange of information and goods and services [15]. Yet, it is not free from the challenges it has brought to sustainable consumption. In fact, it could be argued that globalization is one of the hurdles to uniform sustainable consumption practices in the country. However, there are arguments proposed by the champions in favor of globalization that global consumers have higher market awareness and enable the promotion fairtrade practices [36][37][38][39][40]. Yet, from the extracted literature at hand, researchers could not find a study that has examined the reasoning behind being for or against sustainable consumption. The consumer’s psychology in this regard is still understudied.
A plethora of studies has focused on environmental sustainability while primarily concentrating on the specific dimension of sustainable food consumption [15]. A wide range of studies found that “sustainability has mainly focused on environment-friendly consumption and the consumption of organic products” [1][41][42][43]. Criticism about the organic sector is that it has still failed to capture a large segment of the market despite having the potential. Thus, researchers' study is an attempt to investigate the reasoning behind the failure of organic items being unable to capture their potential. Yet, few attempts are carried out by research academics that explore fairtrade as a facet of ethical consumption [44][45] or animal welfare [41][46].
The work of Sidali and Hemmerling [47] found that consumers often have higher expectations from the producers to produce sustainable products. Yet, consumers themselves take little or no initiative to travel a long distance to purchase and consume sustainable food. For example, the work of Sirieix et al. [48] revealed that, for seasonal items, consumers are not very enthusiastic about travelling long distances; they would instead consume the items that are easily accessible. However, researchers are looking to explore the reason reflecting consumer psychology about the sustainable food available in the supermarket, which is closer and easily accessible. Researchers attempt to understand the reason for favouring or opposing it.


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