Marketing has been practised for years with the aim to encourage consumer spending through the promotion of goods as a means of acquiring status. This stimulation of needs has never been as effective as what marketers are achieving with modern marketing. Current consumer behaviour suggests that marketing initiatives are promoting irresponsible consumption instead of educating consumers to want less. One potential area where all consumers can contribute towards reducing climate change is through the consumption and wastage of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce wastage is currently viewed as a major concern because it contributes towards the country’s greenhouse gas emission rates. In South Africa, current fresh produce consumption portrays little if any concern for the environment. Globally consumers are urged to adapt their consumption practices as excessive consumption has been proven to be detrimental to society and nature. It is proposed that if used differently, marketing can be implemented towards decreasing the unsustainable consumption of fresh produce.
Due to growing concerns about the state of the planet and how future generations might be affected by humankind’s careless use of resources, sustainable consumption is discussed globally. Consumers are nevertheless not necessarily motivated to change their lifestyles and to adapt their consumption behaviour accordingly. A major contributor to the problem is the paradox that is created through marketing media when marketers try to encourage consumer interest in products to enhance sales while these attempts may actually instigate conspicuous consumption. At the same time, marketing communication proclaim the merit of sustainable consumption. Unfortunately it is not always clear whether marketers’ efforts to enhance the idea of sustainable consumption are understood by consumers or whether it is contradicted by messages that simultaneously boost conspicuous consumption.
The principal aim of this study was to investigate and describe the influence of marketing communication on consumers’ knowledge of sustainable issues and how it is reflected in their purchasing and consumption behadviour of fresh produce.
An explanatory sequential design was used to investigate the problem. Data collection concerning marketing’s influence on consumer knowledge took place by means of two phases: focus group discussions, including a projective technique; and a quantitative
questionnaire. Data analysis of phase one involved open coding and categorisation. Phase two involved content analysis as well as descriptive statistics.
Results indicated that consumers lack the necessary knowledge to change their purchasing and consumption habits to be more sustainable. Current fresh produce consumption practices revealed little concern for the environment, especially in consumers’ behaviour in rejecting physically unattractive fresh produce, based on illogical consumer demands. A major obstacle identified was consumers’ socialisation in terms of acceptable consumer behaviour – external socialisation factors encourage consumers’ unsustainable demands in terms of perfect fresh produce.
Because consumers seemed willing to change their fresh produce consumption practices once adequately informed, suggestions are that marketing be used to educate consumers regarding the virtues of sustainable consumption. Future research might focus on exact strategies that can be implemented to ensure an effective and efficient portray of the necessary information from marketing communication to consumers.