On November 14, Dr. Nadja El Benni, employed at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) until October 2016 and starting at Agroscope (Swiss Confederation’s centre of excellence for agricultural research) in January 2017 as head of the Strategic Research Division “Competitiveness and System Evaluation”, visited ISET. She delivered a presentation entitled “Perception of food quality and authenticity of Chinese consumers”. The melamine scandal of 2008 and a series of related scandals in the years thereafter has led to low levels of trust in the safety and integrity of domestically produced Chinese infant milk formula; concerned parents in China are increasingly using ‘foreign-produced’ brands.

The presentation was devoted to the research on effectiveness of authenticity cues in assuring consumers in China. The study intends to close a research gap by analysing the importance of different authenticity cues in consumers` product choices by taking perceptions of food risk and authenticity and socio-demographic variables into account. An online survey which included choice experiments was conducted with 350 citizens of three Chinese cities: Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. The consumers` perceptions and attitudes towards food risk and food authenticity were analysed by group comparisons. Latent class models were used to identify consumer segments based on their perceptions and attitudes, socio-demographic characteristics and their preferences for different labels, authenticity cues and price when making product choices.

The survey has revealed that trust in the government with regard to its ability to provide accurate information about the authenticity and safety of food is rather low; China’s reputation still suffers even years after the melamine scandal. In addition, consumers with higher incomes tend to choose European products and prefer higher priced over lower priced products; for some consumers, price serves as a quality cue. The presentation showed that experiences with counterfeit products, the perception of organic food and food quality and safety concerns, really matter in the food choices of Chinese consumers.

Our Partners