Consumer Information Processing, Food Purchase and Stocking: Beginning, During and Post COVID-19

Lin, Yuanfang | $21,399

Ontario University of Guelph 2021 SSHRC

The impact of COVID‑19 has been unprecedented to the society and in many cases exacerbated by the level of clarity in information, or the degree of misinformation driven by mainstream and social media. The proposed research plans to explore impact of the interactions between information provision and consumer information processing in the context of food purchase, storage, and consumption. During this pandemic consumers who are constantly caught between conflicting information are likely driven to unusual stockpiling and consumption behavior. This in turn poses serious challenges to the marketing channel members as they are adapting and adjusting not only due to COVID related regulatory changes and fluctuating demand but also to the evolving consumption preference. It should be highlighted that empty shelf spaces, supply chain disruption and the potential panic public reaction all add to society’s welfare loss. Understanding how information provision impacts consumer behavior during COVID will not only help develop better communication strategies to work under the current pandemic but also help marketing channel members develop better strategies to deal with future pandemic related supply and demand challenges.

The objective of this project is to develop theoretical and empirical models to investigate the interrelated issues of consumer stockpiling and marketing channel members’ strategic responses conditional on the levels and types of information provision and processing due to COVID. On the demand side, the research team will:

1) Characterize how consumers make food purchase and stocking decisions based on update of the situational assessment using collected and processed information at early outbreak, during, and post pandemic.

2) Gather evidence on the evolving consumption trends and distinguish temporary versus permanent shifts in food demand as the business society is moving towards the post pandemic phase.

3) Perform statistical analysis to identify the profile of consumers who are more likely to engage in stockpiling, the specific product categories most likely to experience fast stock out and examine the systematic differences among consumers from different countries, regions, or ethnic backgrounds.

On the supply side, the project team will present a full understanding of challenges faced by different parties of the food supply chain due to the shifting and/ or evolving of consumer preferences pre-, during and post pandemic. The research team will

4) Recommend effective communication strategies to help reduce fear, misinformation and irrational stockpiling.

5) Develop and analyze game theoretic models to generate best responses for marketing channels to deal with potential short term and long term stock out problem.

6) Provide managerial guidance to help the food supply chain become more resilient in serving the fluctuating demand at various stages of pandemic outbreak.

A two stage “information updating purchase decision” model will be constructed as the project’s theoretical framework. Predictions from the theoretical model analysis will be empirically tested using primary data collected via two rounds of online surveys and focus group studies. Three graduate students will receive academic support and research training through involvement with the proposed project. Findings from project study will be summarized in two research articles and conference presentations for knowledge mobilization in the academic community. Policy debriefs, knowledge symposium and media newsletters will help disseminate research insights to government agencies, industry associations and consumers. The proposed project joins the global research efforts to mitigate COVID19’s negative impact on communities and societies.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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