Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

January 11, 1999

Most shoppers unaware of product origin

Most shoppers do not know where the products they purchase are made, according to preliminary results of a new University of Guelph study.
The Canadian consumer shopping habits study by John Liefeld is the first to use a method that measures what consumers know rather than what they say in response to survey questions. These findings contradict more than 600 studies since 1965 that conclude that the origin of products is an important criterion of consumer choice.
Preliminary results from store exit interviews taken in Guelph and Cambridge show that 88 percent of the 219 shoppers surveyed did not know the origin of products they had just purchased. "Only 3 per cent both knew the origin and also indicated that knowledge of origin played some role in their choice process," said Liefeld, of the Department of Consumer Studies. "Previously reported academic research over-estimated the importance of origin in consumer choices."

The purchases investigated included textiles (clothing and household), shoes and leather goods, kitchen appliances and housewares, entertainment, communication, computers and computer components, outdoor camping and sporting goods, automotive, and hardware and garden.

According to Liefeld, previous research about consumer choice relied on transparent survey questioning or experimental conditions. These methods are subject to a variety of systematic biasing effects. More importantly, questioning people about their behaviors, values, beliefs, attitudes, is known to often generate their responses, he said.

The research approach developed by Liefeld is currently being extended to Vancouver and Texas. In the new year, interviewing also will be undertaken in Montreal, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. If the findings are similar to those in Guelph/Cambridge, Liefeld hopes that the weight of the evidence will encourage other consumer behavior researchers to develop and employ new research methods.

Liefeld also is developing methods to investigate what people know just after purchase in the categories of wine and liquor, fresh produce and automobiles.

Contact: Professor John Liefeld, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 3328 or Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 3338

Email this entry to:

Message (optional):