No palm oil or certified sustainable palm oil? Heterogeneous consumer preferences and the role of information
Public concerns about the adverse effects of palm oil production and consumption have contributed both to the development of certification standards for sustainable palm oil and to the promotion of palm-oil-free products. While research on consumer preferences for palm oil is growing, potential trade-offs between these two options—products containing certified palm oil versus palm-oil-free products—are still largely unexplored. Focusing on this research gap, a discrete choice experiment involving chocolate cookies was implemented as part of a web survey among consumers in Germany. Results indicate that consumers on average prefer palm-oil-free cookies, although a latent class analysis identifies several consumer segments that differ in terms of preferences, attitudes, and characteristics. Many respondents are highly price-sensitive. After the provision of additional information, stated preferences for certified palm oil increase, but four out of five consumer segments still prefer palm-oil-free products. Prevailing health concerns and a potential lack of trust in certification might explain this choice behavior. As alternatives to palm oil are not necessarily more sustainable, initiatives supporting the uptake of certified sustainable palm oil should be further strengthened. Targeted information campaigns might be a suitable instrument to raise awareness and increase knowledge about palm oil.