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Promoting Food for the Trash Bin? A Review of the Literature on Retail Price Promotions and Household-Level Food Waste

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Supermarkets receive criticism for irresponsible marketing practices, such as price promotions, that trigger over-purchasing and seemingly contribute to consumer waste. In the wake of this, retailers have abolished certain price promotions as part of an effort to meet corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals. We aim to investigate whether the underlying assumption that price promotions are positively related to consumer food waste needs to hold true. Through a review of the existing literature, we show that there is no scientific consensus on this assumption. Our findings show that half of the studies conclude that price promotions result in food waste by encouraging over-purchase, while the remaining conclude that consumers buying price-promoted food products show average or even lower levels of household food waste. Unraveling this inconsistency, we contribute by proposing a multi-level model of CSR behavior, where CSR actions at an institutional level (retailer) interact with individual characteristics at a micro (consumer) level leading to demonstrably different outcomes. We argue that the assumption that price promotions necessarily cause food waste has been overly simplistic, as it did not take into account the consumers’ role. We conclude that the relationship between price promotions and consumer food waste is conditional on price consciousness, attitudes, values, household identities, and household roles. Thus, we illustrate that CSR problems are often wicked ones, where first-order solutions often lead to secondary problems that stymie the progress of institutions and policy makers in addressing social needs in business. We derive specific recommendations for retailers seeking to meet CSR goals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4018
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

    Research areas

  • Consumer behavior, Consumer social responsibility (CnSR), Corporate ethics, Corporate social responsibility (CSR), Food waste, Price promotions, Retailing

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