The science of marketing Genetically Modified (GMO) Foods

Posted on February 20, 2019

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The importance of effective marketing of genetically modified (GMO) food products was the topic of focus at the third annual Science of Marketing Pub Talk hosted by the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business.

Students and industry professionals gathered to hear Dr. David Zhang’s presentation on the research of the marketing of GMO foods.

Using a longitudinal approach, Zhang and his colleagues tracked the changes in consumer knowledge, attitudes, and purchase intentions over a ten year period. The results showed that producers focused on using GMO technology mainly to advance the industry.

A traditional marketing approach was most often used by producers to promote the benefits of extended shelf life to supermarkets while ignoring the consumer. The study showed single channel messaging was the primary driver used to promote the cost-savings associated with extending the shelf life of food with little thought to how the consumer would interpret the effects of the perceived freshness of the product.

Dr. Zhang’s research also found that while the general public’s awareness and understanding of GMO’s had increased, the intent to purchase did not dramatically change. The findings indicated when GMO products were labeled as GMO with no associated benefits on the label, the consumer viewed them as negative and wanted to pay a lower price than average.

Ultimately Dr. Zhang and colleague’s research emphasized the need for consumer benefits to play a role in a producer’s marketing efforts. Zhang concluded a strategic approach would be to focus on a multi-channel message to address both supermarkets and consumers. The results revealed when GMO products have enhanced benefits (e.g., more nutrition) and are marketed as such; consumers were willing to pay up to a 10% price premium for such additional benefits.

Dr. Zhang concluded his presentation by highlighting the work of current M.Sc. Marketing student Ali Abbasi and recent alumnus Yufei Huang. He also encouraged those interested in researching similar topics related to marketing, to consider the Master of Science in Marketing program offered by Edwards School of Business.

To learn about upcoming information sessions and admission requirements, please visit edwards.usask.ca.

Natasha Katchuk