Internationally, alternative food quality movements have given rise to a quality turn from the mass consumption model toward an increasing qualitative differentiation of products and demand (Allaire, 2002). While food quality trends and their implications have been widely analyzed internationally, little has been written on the local quality dynamics in South Africa, a country with clear dualistic socio-economic features. This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of South African consumers’ present food quality evaluation with a specific focus on ‘conventional’ and ‘advanced’ quality attributes associated with fresh food produce (fruit / vegetable and meat). Primary data was collected during 2009 through an extensive nationally representative consumer survey (n=420) (LSM 7 – 10), preceded by focus groups and retailer observations of actual quality claims on fresh food labels. Statistical analysis involved descriptive and comparative analyses and Kmeans cluster analysis in SPSS 17.0. The paper substantiates the fact that when selecting food purchase outlets and fresh food products, South African consumers largely apply ‘conventional’ quality and convenience considerations (e.g. appearance, taste). Even though ‘advanced’ / credence attributes (e.g. animal welfare, environmental practices, safety) are generally less important the results also demonstrate that they already have a relatively significant foothold in the local market, being more established for higher LSM groups in particular and suggesting potential opportunity for market growth.. The complexity of consumers’ behaviours and evaluation towards advanced food quality issues is also pointed out. Implications surrounding guaranteeing bodies and small-scale farmers’ market access are also addressed, as well as study limitations and recommendations for future research.


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