Authenticity has become increasingly important in the modern market as consumers seek products more resonant of tradition and originality. This study aimed to develop and validate a perceived authenticity scale for food specialties. Furthermore, this work exposed the causal relationship between authenticity and consumer behaviour, by quantitatively analysing the effects of perception of authenticity and identification with a product on consumers’ willingness to consume the cheese Algovian Emmentaler, an iconic dairy product produced in southern Germany and protected with the designation of origin. Three surveys were conducted over two different timeframes. One served as a pre-test in Germany with a representative sample for the second two in Germany and Italy with a gourmet sample. Both objective authenticity and subjective authenticity were considered, with the former comprising concepts such as whether the respondent was sure of the cheese’s origin and the latter what the cheese embodied. Identification with Algovian Emmentaler was also surveyed. Exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis were conducted on the survey data in order to construct an authenticity scale. Based on this scale, structural equation models were constructed. Objective authenticity was found to positively contribute to stated willingness to consume, as well as mediate subjective authenticity, which itself mediated the effects of identification. Subjective authenticity was a large contributing factor to willingness to consume among German consumers, whereas the effects of objective authenticity were higher in Italy compared with the former. Expectedly, identification with Algovian Emmentaler also had a high direct effect on willingness to consume in Germany.
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