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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2014

Communicating GHG mitigating food consumption in-store An observational study of food retailers in five European countries

Ekelund Axelson, Lena; Hunter, Erik; Spendrup, Sara; Tjärnemo, Helene

Abstract

Purpose - Current food consumption patterns contribute negatively to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change. Positioned at the interface between producers and consumers, retailers have the potential to reduce this problem through informing their customers on the consequences of their actions. The purpose of this paper is to understand the variety of ways European retailers go about informing their customers on the linkage between food choice and climate change as well as which actions they advocate in-store to reduce the problem.Design/methodology/approach - In-store walkthroughs lasting between 40 minutes and 1.5 hours were carried out at 30 grocery stores in five European countries to identify climate mitigating communications. The observations targeted any message produced and transmitted by the retailer where links between food and climate change were drawn.Findings - The diversity in climate mitigating food communication we expected to find across Europe did not materialize. Only four out of the 30 retailers visited transmitted to their customers any information showing a direct link between food consumption and climate change. Indirectly, the authors found some retailers communicating food choices believed to lead to GHG reduction without linking them to climate change. Finally the authors found several retailers communicating what the authors argue are ambiguous messages to their customers where sustainability issues were confounded with climate ones. The dearth of climate mitigating food communications reveals the complexity in informing customers on such issues but also a possible lack of interest on the part of both parties.Originality/value - This research contributes empirically to knowledge of how retailers communicate climate mitigating food consumption to consumers.

Keywords

Marketing communications; European food retailing; GHG mitigating food consumption; Sustainable food consumption

Published in

British Food Journal
2014, Volume: 116, number: 10, pages: 1618-1635
Publisher: EMERALD GROUP PUBLISHING LIMITED