This apple is too ugly for me! Consumer preferences for suboptimal food products in the supermarket and at home

Ilona E. de Hooge*, Marije Oostindjer, Jessica Aschemann-Witzel, Anne Normann, Simone Mueller Loose, Valérie Lengard Almli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

233 Citations (Scopus)


Food waste has received increasing scientific and societal attention during the last decade. One important cause of food waste is thought to be the un-willingness of supply chains and consumers to sell, purchase, and consume suboptimal or imperfect foods. Yet, empirical research on this issue is scarce and contradictory. The current research investigates under which conditions consumers purchase or consume foods that deviate from regular products in terms of appearance standards, date labelling, or damaged packaging, without deviation on the intrinsic quality or safety. An online choice experiment among 4214 consumers from five Northern European countries reveals that consumer preferences for suboptimal products differ depending on whether the consumer is in a supermarket or at home, and depending on the type of sub-optimality. Moreover, consumer choices, discount preferences, and waste behaviors of suboptimal products are influenced by demographics (nationality, age), by personality characteristics (value orientation, commitment to environmental sustainability, and perceived consumer effectiveness in saving the environment), and by individual-waste aspects (perceived food waste of the household, perceived importance of food waste, engaging in shopping/cooking). These findings provide important insights into consumer preferences for suboptimal products, and useful suggestions for supply-chain regulations on suboptimal products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-92
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Consumer choice
  • Food waste
  • Households
  • Imperfect foods
  • Retail
  • Suboptimal products


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