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Referent product information from a credible source: How front line employees can stimulate acceptance of incrementally new food products

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  • Edwin J. Nijssen, Eindhoven University of Technology
  • ,
  • Machiel J. Reinders, Wageningen University & Research
  • ,
  • Marija Banovic

Generating consumer acceptance for incrementally new food products remains a challenge. Drawing on analogical learning theory, we explore the combined effect of providing information about the new product's closest referent (‘the product is like…’) and the instrumental value of store's frontline employees (FLEs) as credible source of this information on a new food product's acceptance. Using the context of aquaculture, two consecutive experimental studies with a joint data collection have been conducted among UK consumers. Study 1 focuses on the adoption of fillets of an unfamiliar fish species with the FLE communicating newness, or newness including closest referent information. Results confirm that information provided by the FLE has a positive effect on consumer attitude and willingness to buy the new product, but a similar rather than stronger effect is found for the condition including closest referent information. Using a subsample of the data of Study 1, Study 2 explores the underlying learning mechanisms involved. The findings show that the influence of the FLE's information on the consumer's attitude towards the new product is positively mediated by the consumer's attitude towards FLE's advice. Additionally, the positive indirect effect of the FLE's information regarding closest referent on willingness to buy is conditional on the consumer's (dis)liking of the referent product and his/her need to taste the new product first. These findings confirm that offering information on closest referent by FLEs is powerful and can be a useful variable in consumer segmentation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104038
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

    Research areas

  • Analogical learning, Aquaculture, Consumer adoption, FLE, New product launch, Referent product information

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