You get what you pay for: the link between price and food safety in Kenya uri icon

abstract

  • The lack of a reliably safe food supply in developing countries imposes both health and economic costs. Food safety is one of several dimensions of food quality that are typically unobservable at the time of purchase. Branding can overcome this information problem by allowing firms to build reputations based on the quality of their products. If a reputation for food safety is valued directly by consumers, or if food safety is correlated with other valued attributes, firms producing safer food should be able to use their brand equity to charge higher prices. In addition, firms with stronger brand equity have stronger incentives to meet food safety standards in order to maintain that equity. Using data from more than 900 maize flour samples representing 23 distinct brands in eastern and central Kenya, we explore the relationship between price and contamination with aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a fungal toxin common in maize, groundnuts, and other crops around the world. We find a strong negative correlation between price and contamination at the brand level, consistent with the hypothesized positive relationship between brand equity and food quality.

publication date

  • 2017
  • 2017