Investigating the importance of product traceability in the relationship between product authenticity and consumer willingness to pay
Research framework: The effects of agricultural market globalization have increased the perception of inauthentic products; therefore, consumers increasingly search for real and genuine products. Product authenticity, generally defined with terms such as real, original, unique, genuine, and traditional, is becoming a frequent evaluation criterion that guides consumer decision-making. In this perspective, the traceability of the product could play a relevant role by allowing consumers to know more about the product (i.e., the whole process), which leads to greater trust in it.
Purpose of the paper: This study explores the importance of product traceability in the relationship between product authenticity and consumer willingness to pay (WTP) for agri-food products, specifically for organic olive oil. Traceability is seen as a crucial factor in the agri-food sector, by preventing deliberate or accidental mislabeling (i.e., adulterations, fraud, scandals).
Methodology: Quantitative data were collected from a convenience sample of consumers through an online survey built on the Qualtrics software platform. The survey was performed in Spain, considered the first and most important producer of organic olive oil in the world.
Findings: The findings provide preliminary evidence that the importance of product traceability plays a mediating role in the relationship between product authenticity and consumer willingness to pay for organic olive oil.
Research limits: This study adopts an exploratory approach and was developed only in the Spanish context. It would be useful to perform the analysis in other relevant olive oil producing countries, such as Italy or Greece. Additionally, the study focused on a specific type of comestible product (i.e., organic olive oil), then to corroborate the validity and generalizability of the findings further research will focus on different edible products.
Practical implications: Findings contribute to the literature on the authenticity construct and allow implications for the marketing of agri-food products to be drawn.
Originality of the paper: Through empirical evidence, this study sheds some light on the under-investigated nature of the importance of product traceability in the relationship between product authenticity and consumer willingness to pay.
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