Nudging the demand for organic food

Last registered on December 22, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Nudging the demand for organic food
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0007121
Initial registration date
February 19, 2021

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
February 19, 2021, 11:23 AM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
December 22, 2021, 3:51 PM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.

Locations

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
Universidad Privada Boliviana

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Universidad Privada Boliviana
PI Affiliation
Fundación AGRECOL-Andes
PI Affiliation
Fundación AGRECOL-Andes

Additional Trial Information

Status
Completed
Start date
2021-02-22
End date
2021-06-30
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
How can we expand the demand for organic food in developing countries, especially in farmers' markets frequently used by middle and low-income families? We propose a framed field experiment to identify which messages are the most effective in encouraging the substitution of conventional (non-organic) foods for more organic foods in farmers' markets of Cochabamba city, Bolivia. Consumers receive an amount of money to spend buying a basket of fresh food at a store set up exclusively for the experiment, where they can see, touch and smell the food before selecting it. After choosing conventional foods for their basket, we randomly assign them to a treatment that consists of an informative message. Then, we give them the option of exchanging their initial food choices for more organic ones. There are four treatments and a control group. Each treatment contains one or two of the following parts: (1) a color scale (e.g., traffic lights) which rates foods by how far they are from organic production, and (2) information on the consequences of consuming conventional foods in health or the environment.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Alem, Mariana et al. 2021. "Nudging the demand for organic food." AEA RCT Registry. December 22. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7121
Sponsors & Partners

Sponsors

Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
We deliver two pieces of information to consumers. First, we give them messages about the consequences of eating conventional (non-organic) foods on health or the environment. Then, we use a color scale (traffic lights) to show how far a particular food is from being organic. Literature finds that concern about the environment and personal well-being (health) is correlated to organic food consumption (Holloway et al., 2007; Shafie & Rennie, 2012; Hidalgo-Baz et al., 2017). We intend to create the messages in a framing that facilitates behavioral change, appealing to their loss aversion to change their default choice, i.e., conventional foods, to a more beneficial one, i.e., organic foods (Díaz & Del Valle, 2016).

The second part of the intervention is the color scale, which is similar to traffic lights. The purpose of this scale is to guide consumers towards a more automatic and implicit decision-making process, reducing their cognitive load (Vlaemick et al 2014; Muller et al 2019; Crossetto et al 2019). The scale grades the intensity of production, meaning the excessive use of agrochemicals and machinery. The lower the score, the closer the food is to organic production. We assign the red color to the least organic food and the green color to the most organic one.

We will implement the intervention as a framed field experiment conducted inside farmers' markets in a store set up exclusively for this purpose. Participants receive a voucher of a fixed monetary value that they can use to select conventional fresh food. A facilitator accompanies the participants and shows them a video with the intervention's messages. Then, we give them the option of exchanging their initial food choices for more organic ones. The scale is going to be represented by colored ribbons attached to the foods' packages. In the end, the facilitator interviews participants to collect demographic and some additional information.
Intervention Start Date
2021-02-22
Intervention End Date
2021-04-03

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The score of participant's food basket according to a scale that grades the intensity of production.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We build an index that measures the intensity of production using an expert survey. (See details in Docs and Materials). The index scores how frequently supplementary means of production are used to increase the output per unit of the crop area. E.g., agrochemicals, mechanization of production. Seven criteria characterize food production. An expert grades each criterion from 1 to 10, where the assigned value represents the probability that a food was produced more intensive. The criteria comprise two dimensions: technological-productive and environmental. The average of all the criteria gives the value of the index.

The score of the basket is given by the weighted average of each food's index value.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We will implement a framed field experiment with two stages and five between-subjects treatments. The purpose of the experiment is to identify which messages are the most effective in encouraging the substitution of conventional (non-organic) foods for more organic foods. The target population is consumers from farmers' markets of the city of Cochabamba (Bolivia). The experiment intends to create a controlled environment that preserves some central characteristics of a real market. It takes place inside a farmers' market in a store designed exclusively for this purpose. We offer food that is usually available in farmers' markets. Each food has a conventional-organic pair. There is not going to be a price gap between conventional and organic food. However, two different foods can have different prices set at the market level. Subjects will be able to see and touch the food before selecting it.

The store has two counters. In the first stage, subjects receive a voucher and approach the first counter to select an initial food basket. Then, they receive a random treatment delivered through a video. In the second stage, subjects go to the second voucher and are given the option to exchange their food choices for more organic ones. Making a sequential choice, i.e., first of conventional food and then of organic, allows us to control for the food consumption pattern of the subjects before treatment (Muller et al., 2019).

The treatments are:
(1) (Control group) Only physical appearance and origin: After choosing the conventional food basket, subjects will see a short video that states foods from the store have different origins and appearances. Then, we will present the second counter without telling them which foods are conventional and organic.
(2) Color scale: After choosing the conventional food basket, subjects will see a short video about the production of organic, and conventional food. In the end, we will explain the color scale that grades the intensity of production, meaning the excessive use of agrochemicals and machinery. The lower the score, the closer the food is to organic production. The scale is going to be represented by colored ribbons attached to the foods' packages.
(3) Color scale and health information: After choosing the conventional food basket, subjects will see a short video about the negative consequences of consuming conventional food on health. In the end, we will explain the color scale as in treatment (2).
(4) Color scale and environment information: After choosing the conventional food basket, subjects will see a short video about the negative consequences of consuming conventional food on the environment. In the end, we will explain the color scale as in treatment (2).
(5) Color scale, health, and environment information: After choosing the conventional food basket, subjects will see a short video about the negative consequences of consuming conventional food on health and the environment. In the end, we will explain the color scale as in treatment (2).
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
We will use block randomization. Each session will become a block or stratum. Sessions will happen in three farmers' markets on the days they usually open. We intend to define an equal number of subjects per treatment in a session. Randomization will occur during the session through an urn that will contain the vouchers. Each one will have a bar code with the treatment number. At the beginning of the experiment, subjects will select a voucher from the urn at random, thus selecting their treatment.
Randomization Unit
Consumer (individual)
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
280 consumers of farmers' markets
Sample size: planned number of observations
280 consumers of farmers' markets
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
56 consumers per treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We performed the power analysis using simulations. The experiment can detect the change of one element of the initial food basket after treatment with a 95% power and a 5% significance level. A change of this magnitude is equivalent to a drop of 0.2 s.d. in the food basket score (Mean score: 3. Standard Deviation: 1.15)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Comité de Ética y Transparencia de la Universidad Privada Boliviana (CET-UPB))
IRB Approval Date
2020-10-22
IRB Approval Number
CET-01102020

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials