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Abstract

This study investigated how prestige seeking behavior influences food choices to the point of becoming a symbol of social status. Participants in the study were classified into unobserved latent classes according to their prestige and social status seeking behavior. The majority of the participants were classified as “Utilitarian Buyers” who purchase goods based on their functionality and are not concerned with the prestige or social status of conspicuous products. In addition, there were three other latent classes found and based on their characteristics they were described as “Ambitious Shoppers”, “Affluent Elitists”, and “Prestige Lovers”. Evidence was found of prestige seeking behavior motivated by invidious comparison or higher-class individuals seeking to differentiate themselves from lower-class individuals; and also motivated by pecuniary emulation, or individuals from a lower class buying prestigious goods in order to be perceived as members of a higher class. Findings from this study revealed that the effects of differentiating food labeling attributes had a higher impact for individuals classified into classes with prestige-seeking behavior to attain an elevated social status.

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