“Unattractive = Natural”: How Explicit and Implicit Beliefs Jointly Affect Consumer Purchase of Unattractive Produce
The disposal of safe and edible yet aesthetically unattractive produce results in massive food waste, prompting an increase in research exploring factors that can facilitate acceptance of unattractive produce. Among the various factors, consumers’ “unattractive = natural” belief is receiving especially more attention. We propose that two types of “unattractive = natural” beliefs—implicit and explicit ones—jointly affect consumer choice. Precisely, consumers with incongruent (vs. congruent) implicit and explicit “unattractive = natural” beliefs exhibit a greater preference for unattractive produce. We further uncover that the incongruence between implicit and explicit beliefs engenders elaborative thinking, which corrects for the consumer bias against unattractive produce. Two studies, using different methods to measure implicit beliefs (i.e., the Implicit Association Test and word embeddings method) and consumer purchase (i.e., real choice and scale measure), provide convergent evidence for the proposed effects. This research contributes to the literature on consumer attitudes toward unattractive produce and implicit/explicit beliefs, and it provides important managerial insights regarding food waste.