One needs to be reminded and motivated: Mediating role of digital nudging for food waste reduction

Derek Ong, Shirley Chiu, Elizabeth Andrews, Geetha Nadarajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: The global food waste and food scarcity paradox is steadfastly increasing. This study aims to examine the effects of digital nudging as forms of positive and negative reinforcement to change food waste behavior and found that nudging positive reinforcement modifies this habit.

Design/methodology/approach: A field experiment was conducted on 628 diners randomly split into experiment (n = 412) and control group (n = 216) in two separate dining locations over four weeks. Out of these, 412 diners were randomly subjected to tent cards with positive (n = 228) and negative (n = 184) reinforcement nudging and completed a questionnaire to ascertain if nudging affects their consumption behavior. Consumption waste per unit revenue was calculated from all 628 diners individually to analyze the financial impact between control and experiment groups.

Findings: SEM analysis reveals that positive reinforcement mediates between external motivators (social media and restaurant service) and reduction of food waste behavior. Further analysis also reveals that nudging has a higher three times effect on reducing food waste as compared with no nudging (control). Social implications: Positive messaging encourages behavior change more effectively as compared to negative ones. Gentle reminders of how everyone can personally be a “warrior” or “hero” in the fight against global food waste increases the likelihood of altruistic motivation in tackling these issues.

Originality/value: This study demonstrates how positive reinforcement in the form of nudges acts as key mediator to support reduction of consumer food waste on site, ultimately helping to reduce financial costs compared to those without nudges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-471
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social Marketing
Issue number3
Early online date22 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2023


  • Empirical Paper
  • Social marketing
  • Food Waste
  • Digital Nudge
  • Socially responsible consumption
  • Message framing
  • Digital nudge
  • Food waste


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