Segments of Sustainable Food Consumers: A Literature Review

MCD Verain, J Bartels, H Dagevos, SJ Sijtsema, M C Onwezen, G Antonides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

240 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainable food consumption is an important aspect of sustainable development. When adopting a sustainable food lifestyle, consumers are confronted with complex choices. Today's food consumption is too complex to be explained by socio-demographic factors exclusively. A broader perspective is needed. In order to explain behaviour across different consumer segments better, relatively homogenous segments of food consumers were identified by segmenting food consumers based on a wide range of variables. The current study aims to provide an overview of published studies that have segmented consumers with regard to sustainable food consumption. The literature review has been conducted by searching SciVerse Scopus for all relevant articles available until November 2010. The main criterion for including a specific study was the inclusion of empirical analyses of primary data, resulting in consumer segments with regard to sustainable food consumption. Sixteen articles were incorporated in the final analysis. First, the variables used for segmentation and profiling in the included articles have been categorized into three levels of abstraction: personality characteristics, food-related lifestyles and behaviour. The three levels of abstraction proved to be helpful in categorizing the segmentation studies. The findings indicate that variables on all three levels were efficient in differentiating consumer segments regarding sustainability. In addition, the importance of price and health differed across the segments, although these variables are only indirectly related to sustainability. Second, the three most frequently identified consumer segments with regard to sustainable food consumption were: 'greens', 'potential greens' and 'non-greens'. These segments differed from one another on all three levels of abstraction. This implies that future segmentation studies should include variables on all levels of abstraction to get a complete picture of existing sustainable consumer segments. Marketers should be aware that targeting specific segments based on socio-demographic variables exclusively is not sufficient. Personality characteristics, lifestyle and behaviour are all important to take into consideration. Attempts at stimulating sustainable consumption might be most effective when differences across consumer segments are taken into account. Future research is needed to explore the characteristics of different sustainable food consumer segments with respect to their potential contributions in promoting sustainable development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-132
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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