Organized Symposium at IAAE meetings, Brazil, August 2012: TRUST IN FOOD:  COMPARISONS ACROSS CONTEXTS AND METHODS
Organizers: J.E. Hobbs (University of Saskatchewan, Canada) and E. Goddard (University of Alberta, Canada)
Trust has been shown to be an important factor in many food decisions individuals make. Trust can be classified by different levels i.e. general trust, trust in groups and trust in different institutions or companies/sectors. Trust can also be classified as relational trust (between individuals and or institutions) and as calculative trust (confidence in actions) (Earle, 2010). Food decisions potentially impacted by trust include responses to food safety incidents, types of food technology acceptable to individuals, level of processing individuals wish to see in their purchased food, interest in labelling of primary production practices, responses to ethical labelling such as animal welfare, to environmental labelling and to various sorts of nutritional information. In looking at the linkages between trust and consumer behavioural change, it is not clear whether general trust or more specific group or institutional trust is more important or whether trust is more important in different contexts – food safety versus environmental labelling, for example. Additionally, interrelations between the trust concepts are possible. People who trust in general or who trust individuals or institutions involved in the supply of food might have lower levels of worry about food safety, food technologies or food production practices. There is therefore a need to assess whether certain generic beliefs/attitudes (e.g. trust and confidence) can predict specific attitudes and potentially behaviour. The papers in this session provide an opportunity to examine these issues across a number of different empirical studies, using a variety of consumer research methodologies and empirical techniques. The session brings together researchers from two research networks: the Consumer and Market Demand network (Canada) and the Network on the Economics of Food Choice and Health (Germany). The session will be organized as a series of short presentations around two themes, followed by a discussion. The first theme enables a comparison of studies exploring trust in people, institutions, and brand trust. These papers provide a theoretical and methodological backdrop to the second theme which explores the impact of technology on consumer trust. Research currently underway by researchers within the two networks in each of the themes is described below. To allow sufficient time for discussion, each presentation will be limited to about 10-15 minutes, followed by a moderated roundtable discussion led by the discussant. The discussion will focus on maximizing opportunities for audience interaction.

Theme 1: Trust in People, Institutions and Brands

R. Lassoued and J. E. Hobbs.  Trust in Food Safety and Food Quality: Exploring the Role of Brands
 Department of Bioresource Policy, Business & Economics, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
This paper explores determinants of consumer confidence in food attributes, and, in particular, the factors affecting consumer trust in different actors in the food system, as well as in brands as a means of signaling quality. Key questions raised include: How does brand trust build into consumer confidence? How do consumers perceive the different providers of information as trustworthy? And how do personal characteristics, namely; perceived risk, past experience, animal welfare and environmental concerns affect consumer confidence and behaviour in relation to other determinants? Trust is conceived as a multidimensional construct with consumer confidence in food quality and food safety attributes jointly determined by system-based trust (i.e. the food system’s trustworthiness) and product-based trust (brand trust), while being moderated by person-based trust (consumer characteristics). A conceptual model brings together these drivers of brand trust and is examined using a Structural Equation Modelling approach based on data gathered through a survey of Canadian consumers.

V. Muringai and Goddard, E.  The role of trust in consumer interest in production practices and certification
Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada
Consumers may be becoming more sceptical about labelling of production practices (in this case traditionally raised) and whether farmers and others in the supply chain are showing due diligence with regard to safety. Although the Canadian pork industry prides itself on its Canadian Quality Assurance (CQA® an on farm food safety program) program there has been no attempt yet to inform consumers about the program. In this study, the role of trust in affecting Canadian consumer interest in traditionally raised pork versus conventional pork, in certification of traditionally raised pork and in labels identifying Canadian origin and the CQA® program is illustrated.  Linkages between the tendency of people to worry, to trust people in general, to trust in players involved in the food supply chain (government, manufacturers, retailers and farmers) and to select traditionally raised (certified, Canadian CQA®) pork in stated preference experiments are examined. We further examine whether two populations differ in this link between trust and selection of traditionally raised pork versus conventional pork. The first population is composed of people who self select to participate in food sensory panels and who then participate in stated preferences for actual pork chops with different labels (2009). The second population is a national panel who examine photographs of pork chops (2011).  Data is analyzed using clustering of different groups of consumers by different trust indicators  and logit regressions on the choices made  by cluster membership. Results generated from this analysis will help in understanding the heterogeneity of consumer concerns about animal production and how trust influences preferences.

Grebitus, C.*, M. Veeman** and B. Steiner***   Different levels of general and institutional trust and the desire for carbon labelling
* Department of Agricultural and Food Market Research Institute for Food and Resource Economics, Bonn University, Germany; ** Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada; *** University College Cork, Cork County, Ireland
In this study, the tendency to trust people in general and to trust in information provided by different institutions in the economy are used to cluster individuals for further examination of their willingness to pay for carbon labelling. It is hypothesized that apart from general environmental concerns, trust in the information provided on labels may be key to explaining consumers’ desire to see environmental information on the products they purchase. Data used in this study was collected in 2011 in Canada and in Germany. Data is analyzed using logit regression. Results generated from this analysis can help predict which segments of the population will likely respond more to carbon labelling based on their trust in different institutions in the food chain.



A. Matin*, E. Goddard*, J. Lusk **, D. McCann-Hiltz*** and D. Chase***, Willingness to accept cloning in meat and milk production and general trust in people
*Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada; **Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University, USA; *** Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Canada
Cloning is a controversial technology. Objections to the use of cloning technology, as well as to many other applications of biotechnology, are often related to ethical or religious concerns. However for some people the concerns may be related to lack of trust. In this case survey respondent’s willingness to pay for meat (750 respondents) or milk (750 respondents) produced through cloning is examined for clusters  distinguished by their general level of trust in people (Glaeser and General Social  Survey). The data were collected in Canada in 2009 and analysis is undertaken by logit regression. Whether opposition to cloning is muted if people are more generally trusting can inform policy makers faced with regulating and labelling the use of these technologies.

Hobbs, J.E*. J. Zhang** and J. McDonald*.  Food Traceability and Authenticity Technologies and the Impact of Information on Trust
* Department of Bioresource Policy, Business & Economics, University of Saskatchewan, Canada; ** RTI International, North Carolina, USA
This paper explores consumer attitudes toward traceability and authenticity and the role of information in affecting consumer acceptance of new technologies. An online survey conducted in Canada (1000 respondents) uses a discrete choice experiment to examine trade-offs between traceability technology price, brand and country of origin, with respondents randomly assigned to one of four information treatments, and the experiment applied across two different product categories. Analysis reveals low initial consumer acceptance, however, information matters. Highlighting the problems of food adulteration reduces resistance more effectively than providing positive technology information, and the effects appear to be product specific. Therefore, context matters. This paper provides an opportunity to generate discussion on the role of information on trust and consumer acceptance of new food technologies, as well as the effects of context on food choices.


Discussant: Michele Veeman, University of Alberta