Does Cash Really Mean Trash? An Empirical Investigation Into the Effect of Retailer Price Promotions on Household Food Waste
94 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2020 Last revised: 31 May 2022
Date Written: May 26, 2022
Retailer price promotions, and in particular multi-unit promotions such as the ubiquitous “buy one, get one” deal, are often criticized as a cause of food waste, presumably because they lure households into buying more than they can realistically consume. In this research, the authors combine field data and controlled experiments to provide the first systematic test of this claim. The field data show no evidence of a positive relationship between single-unit or multi-unit price promotions and food waste. Rather, households that took advantage of a multi-unit deal reported wasting less food than did households paying regular prices, but only when the purchase quantity associated with that promotion was larger than usual. Given this result, and the fact that households also reported consuming and freezing more, the authors hypothesize that promotion-induced overbuying triggers a situational concern for food waste, which in turn encourages waste prevention. Five experiments find initial support for this theory, separating it from other explanations including perceptions of product salience, freshness, or overall quality. In the closing section, the authors outline the key academic and practical contributions of the studies and suggest ideas for future research.
Keywords: household food waste, price promotion, multi-unit deals, waste aversion, overbuying
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