When the FDA announces that a certain brand of beef is the source of a rampant bacterial infection that is affecting hundreds, consumers are forced to take action. Some switch brands, some opt to pay more for a higher-quality product, and some stop buying beef altogether.  What factors determine which option a consumer chooses?

Ramkumar Janakiraman

Ramkumar Janakiraman, assistant professor of marketing and Shelley and Joe Tortorice ’70 Faculty Research Fellow at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, is analyzing consumer reactions during a food scare. Janakiraman and a research collaborator, Yanhong Jin (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey), recently submitted a proposal entitled “The Impacts of Food Scare Events on Brand Choice Consumption” to the Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The department awarded the researchers a $36,000 grant for continuing research.

Janakiraman says that he and Yanhong will continue to delve into the science behind consumption, and he plans to present concrete results within a year. Janakiraman believes his research will have an impact on marketing strategies for food companies during a scare, and his findings will provide brand names with a formulaic prediction of what to expect when a salmonella or e-coli outbreak stains their labels. The findings will be published as an ERS Economic Research Report.