Exploring the Effects of Sustainability - Themed Branding Initiatives on Gen-Z Diners’ Willingness to Patronize

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Sustainability is the capability to meet the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations. Profit, planet and people are often mentioned as the 3 pillars of sustainability. The topic has been getting to higher and higher positions in the business priority list across various industry sectors these few years. And it comes with even more urgency for the F&B sector, which is often considered as one of the biggest waste culprits out there. On the other hand, many studies show that young generations are not only concerned but also willing to do something about sustainability e.g. UNiDAYS x Ad Age suggesting that 82% young diners prefer buying green products and Neilson noting that 77% of them are even willing to pay more to make it green. Encouragingly, some successful sustainability initiatives have been coming up over the years, from unsold food donation and “no-straw” initiatives across some big restaurant chains, to Banyan Tree’s highly successful “for good” business strategy, and even the fully committed B-Corp move of the ice cream brand Ben & Jerry etc.

However, sustainability has never been any easy topic for commercial sector because it takes some win-win balance between “for good” and “for profit” objectives to really make it “sustainable” at the end of the day. And that involves not only implementation complexity and profitability concerns, but also marketing expertise and lot of creativity etc. However, there is a huge dearth of research efforts regarding why young diners are so concerned about sustainability, what they are looking for behind those concerns, what and how to win their recognition as a sustainability-themed brand that they’d love to patronize repeatedly etc. Research efforts in these respects are of utmost importance for F&B companies to better tackle or leverage this challenge of sustainability for effective branding purpose. Academically, the study will shed light on the construct of sustainability as an affecting factor on willingness to patronize F&B brands.

This exploratory study will adopt convenience sampling leveraging easy access to students from 2 higher institutions in Hong Kong, who are very suitable target respondents representing local young diners. In-depth interviews with students will be adopted to facilitate open-end feedbacks from respondents following a pilot-tested interview protocol. Manual coding with triangulation process will be conducted to come up with findings afterwards. Key questions of the study are: (1) why young diners are concerned about sustainability strategy of F&B companies; (2) what and how to make young diners perceive (recognize) an F&B brand as one for sustainability so that they are willing to patronize repeatedly.

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International Conference on Sustainable Design and Environment 2020

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