Grocery Retailer's Encouragement of Sustainable Food Consumption

Josefine Maria Rostgaard Sørensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Current global trends indicate, that our impact on the environment is still considerable. Modern lifestyles and consumption patterns have radically changed over the past decades, yet food consumption is still a major issue in the politics of sustainable production and consumption because of its impact on the environment and population health. This study was initiated by a great in grocery retailers’ contribution to the sustainable development, and more specific their role in influencing consumers towards more sustainable patterns of food consumption. Literature revealed that investigating consumer attitudes and behavior, in particular, are essential when studying influences on consumption patterns. It was found that a gap exists between consumer attitude towards sustainable purchases, and their actual carried out behavior in the shop. This aroused my interest for further study.
This thesis seeks to answer the question: How can grocery retailers encourage more sustainable food consumption? By conducting an explorative and qualitative study investigating (1) What influence the decision-making process when consumers purchasing food inside a grocery store? (2) What prevents and enables consumers to consume sustainable food? (3) What are the main drivers of the attitude-behavior gap when consumers purchasing food inside the grocery store? (4) What strategic initiatives can grocery retailers apply in order to encourage consumers towards more sustainable patterns of food consumption? Two rounds of qualitative data were produced: data on ten grocery consumers to explain consumer attitudes and behavior, and grocery store data consistent of three interviews collecting internal and external knowledge of how sustainability can be integrated into the marketing mix of a grocery store.
An analysis of consumer behavior when purchasing sustainable food revealed following explanations for the gap between attitudes and behavior;
-Consumers are dominated by selfish motives
-Consumers are lacking knowledge of sustainability in practice
-Availability of products and information are not sufficient
-Lack of ability in terms of time and money
Based on the outcome of the consumer behavior analysis and the collected grocery store data, an analysis of the four Ps of the marketing mix revealed following strategic initiatives as effective strategies towards encouraging consumers towards more sustainable food consumption;
-Improved assortment with transparency
-Clear information strategies targeting the ‘self’
-Accessible campaigns that are including the consumers
-Convenience of products and information
This research develops various implications for further research into the complexity of consumer behaviors, local and international contexts and consumer behavior in crisis situations.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages89
SupervisorsSøren Friis Møller