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Media effects on sustainable food consumption. How newspaper coverage relates to supermarket expenditures

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Luca Panzone



Information provision is often considered to have an important role to play in changing consumers' choices. However, there is still no consensus on the mechanisms by which information might influence specific consumer expenditures, especially in relation to environmentally friendly food products. This paper explores whether the public debate on sustainable consumption in UK broadsheets and tabloids relates to observed consumers' expenditures. It does so by relating the number of published articles on selected sustainability topics to consumers' food expenditure in a leading UK supermarket from May 2009 to May 2011, using regression analysis. We selected only regular supermarket's shoppers who frequently buy the Sunday editions of the analyzed newspapers. Results indicate very sparse and inconsistent correlations suggesting that the impact of information is only minimally effective. The number of newspaper articles relates mainly to expenditures on organic, wholegrain and low salt products, possibly indicating a preference for healthy food. No consistent effects are observed when media target a change in more general food categories (e.g. a reduction in food of animal origin), although we observed some influence on purchases of fish. Finally, results indicate some correlations with purchases of meat for the readers of the Telegraph. In order to contextualize some of the results, we applied content analysis to a subsample of published articles on organic food. The qualitative approach shows that the framing of the news is important: change is positively related to information proposed uncritically; and negatively to information contextualized as a highly structured debate.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bellotti E, Panzone L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Consumer Studies

Year: 2016

Volume: 40

Issue: 2

Pages: 186–200

Print publication date: 01/03/2016

Online publication date: 02/11/2015

Acceptance date: 20/08/2015

Date deposited: 27/07/2016

ISSN (print): 1470-6423

ISSN (electronic): 1470-6431

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/ijcs.12242


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