Graduation Year

2018

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Economics

Reader 1

Sean Flynn

Reader 2

Emma Stephens

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Rights Information

© 2017 Ernica Sanon

Abstract

Inspired by the sudden recent incline in and awareness of veganism as well as my own personal involvement in such matters, I sought out to complete an empirical analysis to study the impact of consumer preferences. Originally intrigued by the consumption of meat and its impact on developing countries, I opted for a related topic with better accompanying data. Consumer preferences change regularly with an increasing plethora of reasons behind their decisions. As the guiding force of the demand side of the market, it was vital to study the impact of their choices. My decision to use plant-based milk was meant to be a proxy for consumers who could not consume dairy. To my surprise, the force behind the increase in plant-based milk consumption was not propelled by those with alternative lifestyles but regular consumers who wanted healthier and better-tasting options.

Further analysis has led me to look past consumers themselves and their individual choices to identify the impacts of their choices. This required an intricate look into the United States dairy industry and its composition. What is recorded within the next 45 pages is a delicate web of outcomes spun by the needs of consumers. It branches out into the lives of small dairy farmers who cannot compete with larger farms. It spins out to form a massive web of increasing profit for the plant-based milk industry. It creates a loss in the whole milk sector of the dairy industry only to be filled by the organic and specialty sectors.

While they can be guided into choices through various forms of advertisement, the world has changed since the introduction of modern economics, and consumers are learning to utilize the products that fit their lifestyles. Gone are the days of passive consumption and food pyramids. Information has never been as readily available as it is today, with the help of the internet and independent researchers, and consumers have chosen to use this to their advantage.

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