Physically processing imperfect produce: The impact of prototypicality

Barone, Ada Maria; Donato, Carmela and Romani, Simona. 2021. Physically processing imperfect produce: The impact of prototypicality. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 20(6), pp. 1547-1561. ISSN 1472-0817 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Forty percent of edible produce is wasted because of consumers' aversion toward esthetical imperfections related to size, shape, and blemish for produce. This phenomenon has huge implications in terms of both environmental sustainability and food security, and calls for the development of interventions that could facilitate the sale of products which would otherwise go to waste. This research provides an explanation for why transforming the physical state of imperfect produce—that is, by physically processing it and turning it into other products (e.g., juices)—is a successful strategy in this sense. More specifically, when imperfect produce is transformed, the new processed product (e.g., juice) belongs to a different conceptual category and thus is perceived as more prototypical and a good example of this new category. We show that higher perceptions of prototypicality in turn lead to more positive preferences. We test this effect in three experimental studies and show that this mechanism is robust across a range of possible transformations of imperfect produce (e.g., natural vs. artificial) and across different dependent variables (i.e., purchase intention, product choice, willingness to pay). Our findings provide evidence for the effectiveness of a solution to be enacted by retailers and actors of the food sector and provide suggestions for public policy initiatives aimed at curbing food waste.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Food waste, imperfect food, physical processing, prototypicality

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute of Management Studies


1 June 2021Accepted
23 June 2021Published Online
November 2021Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Nov 2021 13:15

Last Modified:

23 Jun 2023 01:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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