Media influences on consumption trends: effects of the film Food, Inc. on organic food sales in the U.S.

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In this paper, we empirically investigate the effect of Food, Inc. – an influential documentary film on the US food industry – on organic food sales. We use a novel dataset of Google search volume to measure the influence of the film. Organic food sales are measured using store-level data for three categories in 33 major US markets. For two out of the three studied categories – yogurt and peanut butter – we find that areas with more Google searches for the film experienced a greater increase in the share of organic sales subsequent to the film's release. The effect of the film is more pronounced for the yogurt category, which is closer to the farm and more relevant to animal welfare — one of the key issues featured in the film. The effects are economically significant: ceteris paribus, a one standard deviation increase in our Google search stock measure translates into a 0.66% increase in organic market share for the yogurt and a 0.15% increase for the peanut butter category. In addition, we provide a measure of the decay of the film's effect by deriving the 90% duration interval of the focal search stock variable. We find that, for both categories, the film's effect on organic shares faded within six months.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-335
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Marketing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Media
  • Google search data
  • Organics
  • Sustainability

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