Food Waste: The Role of Date Labels, Package Size, and Product Category
36 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2015
Date Written: December 8, 2015
The presence of food waste, and ways to it, has generated significant debate among industry stakeholders, policy makers, and consumer groups around the world. Many have argued that the variety of date labels used by food manufacturers leads to confusion about food quality and food safety among consumers. Here, we develop a between-subject, laboratory experiment with different date label treatments (Best by, Fresh by, Sell by, and Use by) for products (ready-to-eat cereal, salad greens, and yogurt) of different sizes and dates. Our results show that, holding other observed factors constant, date labels influence the value of premeditated food waste of subjects, or willingness to waste (WTW). On average, the WTW is non-zero across all date labels. Ambiguity avoidance may prompt differential WTW. The WTW is greatest in the Use by treatment, the date label which may be the least ambiguous and suggestive of food safety. The WTW is the lowest for the Sell by treatment, which may be the most ambiguous date label about safety or quality for the consumer. Two-way ANOVA and random effects regression model results provide evidence that subjects respond differentially to date labels, product, date, and size. The WTW for cereal is most responsive to Fresh by, which is related to ideas of quality, but for salad and yogurt, the WTW is more responsive to Use by, which is more indicative of safety. Despite the limited information provided by the labels, date labels on average influence WTW, which may be indicative of future, actualized waste.
Keywords: Consumer preferences; Date labels; Experimental economics; Food quality; Food safety; Public policy analysis
JEL Classification: C91, Q18, D1, I12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation