Imperfect Produce: Retailer Actions and Service Outcomes

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Journal of Services Marketing

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Purpose Food waste is a big problem where millions of pounds of produce are discarded every year because they are imperfect or unattractive. Despite the societal implications of selling unattractive produce, limited research has been directed toward understanding the effect of imperfect produce on consumers’ evaluations of the produce and retailer outcomes. This paper aims to investigate why consumers tend to discard imperfect produce and how retailer interventions (i.e. anthropomorphized signage and packaging) can alleviate these negative effects. Design/methodology/approach Three experiments were conducted to examine the postulations. Study 1 highlights the role of consumers’ embarrassment in the purchase decision of imperfect produce and retailer patronage intention. Studies 2 and 3 provide managerially relevant boundary conditions of anthropomorphic signage and opaque packaging. Findings Convergent results across three studies (n = 882) indicate that imperfect produce increases purchase embarrassment and reduces purchase intention and retailer patronage intention. Retailer interventions (i.e. anthropomorphic signage and opaque packaging) can allay this feeling of embarrassment and lead to an increased retailer patronage intention and higher service satisfaction. Practical implications This research provides guidance to retailers for effectively promoting imperfect produce. Social implications Retailers’ actions can benefit the well-being of farmers, suppliers, customers and the overall environment. Originality/value This research adds to the literature on unattractive produce by identifying new moderators, namely, anthropomorphic signages and opaque packaging. The research also shows that purchase embarrassment is a key process mechanism.


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