The pandemic may have increased sales in locally produced food, but it wasn’t because of explicit consumer preferences, according to a new study from Penn State University.
The study was based on an online poll of 1,650 consumers probing their attitudes toward local food in light of the pandemic, and gauging how much more they would be willing to pay for it. Researchers expected to find that the more an individual was concerned about the effects of the pandemic, the more she would be willing to pay for locally sourced food.
In fact, the opposite happened: As anxiety about the pandemic increased, willingness to pay more for local food decreased. “We find that priming participants to think about COVID‐19 significantly increases anxiety, slightly decreases sense of community, and reduces the price premium for all local foods,” the report reads.
An increase in sales for local food can probably be attributed to simple availability. “Regarding the demand for local food, our findings support previous research that found that consumers ‘were simply buying the food they could get due to out-of-stock situations,’” the report says.