Food preferences are often influenced by environmental cues such as temperature, scent, and sound. Although air pollution is a subtle but daily presence in consumers’ lives, a lack of marketing research exists on whether and how it affects food preferences. This article theorizes that as a natural stressor, air pollution can induce bad moods in people and in turn lead to an increase in unhealthy food preferences. We combine three complementary methodologies to test our hypotheses. Based on large-scale, daily search data, the results of our econometric analysis reveal that people are more prone to search for unhealthy foods when local air pollution is higher. A field study demonstrates that air pollution increases consumer purchases of unhealthy food. Finally, we validate the proposed mechanism through a randomized experiment.
Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 15, 2021
Keywords: Air pollution; Mood; Food search behavior; Food purchase behavior
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