How Do Consumers Acquire a New Food Consumption System When It Is Vegetarian?

Susan Schultz Kleine, Arizona State University
Amy R. Hubbert, Arizona State University
ABSTRACT - The paper describes an exploratory study of consumption pattern acquisition. Depth interviews were used to investigate how individuals unfamiliar with vegetarianism learned and negotiated their version of a meatfree eating pattern. The results highlight the importance of examining consumption system acquisition in light of its multidimensional social embeddedness and its relationship to personal development rather than just focusing upon product purchase and ownership behaviors.
[ to cite ]:
Susan Schultz Kleine and Amy R. Hubbert (1993) ,"How Do Consumers Acquire a New Food Consumption System When It Is Vegetarian?", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 196-201.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Pages 196-201

HOW DO CONSUMERS ACQUIRE A NEW FOOD CONSUMPTION SYSTEM WHEN IT IS VEGETARIAN?

Susan Schultz Kleine, Arizona State University

Amy R. Hubbert, Arizona State University

ABSTRACT -

The paper describes an exploratory study of consumption pattern acquisition. Depth interviews were used to investigate how individuals unfamiliar with vegetarianism learned and negotiated their version of a meatfree eating pattern. The results highlight the importance of examining consumption system acquisition in light of its multidimensional social embeddedness and its relationship to personal development rather than just focusing upon product purchase and ownership behaviors.

What would you do if you wanted to take up gardening, but the products, resources, and procedures were completely unfamiliar to you? How about learning to sew? taking up birdwatching? integrating a personal computer into your work and household management procedures? How would you go about the adoption of these activity patterns if they were unfamiliar?

Each of these activity patterns and its accompanying consumption may be thought of as a consumption system (Boyd and Levy 1963). A consumption system includes a bundle of products that cohere around, and facilitate, an activity (gardening, cooking, playing softball). Taking up an unfamiliar activity and its associated product cluster (Kernan and Sommers 1967; McCracken 1988; Solomon 1988) involves more than just product acquisition. Given that most consumption is socially embedded (Kleine, Schultz Kleine, and Kernan 1992; Solomon 1983), part of learning an unfamiliar consumption system may involve negotiating social and developmental processes as well.

The purpose of the study reported here was to explore a case of consumption system acquisition. This food consumption system-vegetarianism-is significantly new and unfamiliar to those raised on the typical American omnivorous diet (consuming all types of foods including meat). We wished to explore how persons who had not been raised as vegetarians acquired this significantly different consumption system for themselves. How did they learn the new ways of meal preparation, eating, shopping; what were their sources of influence and learning; how did they cope with social situations? How did a person negotiate his/her own version of this consumption pattern?

The Vegetarianism Consumption System

Absence of animal flesh consumption distinguishes a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian practices vary in severity of restriction relative to mainstream American omnivorous diets. Some vegetarians adopt a diet which excludes only meat. Others also avoid dairy products and/or eggs. The most constrained completely avoid animal products in food, clothing, and other products (e.g., animal fat in soap). Changing from an omnivorous to a vegetarian diet, even in its least restrictive form, requires significant alternations in an individual's food consumption and food shopping patterns.

The literature identifies various motives for becoming vegetarian. These include ethical reasons based on concern for such issues as animal rights, environmentalism, or world hunger, and self improvement reasons involving health, religion/spirituality, or personal growth (e.g., Amato and Partridge 1989; Brown 1990). People often express multiple motives for making the transition (e.g., both animal rights and health reasons) and their motives may change or expand as they adapt to vegetarianism (e.g., starting out for health reasons, acknowledging spiritual reasons later; Amato and Partridge 1989).

Certain socio-cultural factors have influenced the greater emergence of vegetarian diet practices. The trends of environmentalism, health improvement, and an emphasis on personal growth have created a more accepting environment for vegetarianism than was once present (e.g., Amato and Partridge 1989). Growing evidence of lower protein requirements for proper nutrition, the perceived value of reduced ingestion of animal fats, and support for whole grain consumption has lent credence to vegetarian-style eating patterns. Media attention on animal rights issues combined with concern for sound environmental practices has directed attention to some reasons one might choose vegetarianism.

The marketplace has responded to these socio-cultural changes. Plenty of information is available in libraries and bookstores: materials about the health advantages and disadvantages of a meatless diet, cookbooks, magazines (e.g., Vegetarian Times), and other resources. Also, mainstream supermarkets and food stores carry increasingly more products that fit with a non-meat diet. In many markets natural food stores specialize in products not found in other food stores; mail order is an option. A person who wishes to learn about vegetarianism can find needed information and products.

To one who is unfamiliar with its consumption system, vegetarianism seems more than just learning how to cook and eat differently. Food consumption patterns are associated with symbolic meaning which reflect social patterns (Heisley 1992; Levy 1981). Besides significant shifts in everyday behaviors, a meatless diet would affect one's interactions with others (e.g., what will my family think? what happens when I get invited to a steak dinner? what is right for my child?). Thus, two a priori assumptions informed our methodology. First, we expected an individual's move to vegetarianism to involve changes in both the public and private aspects of his/her daily life. Second, we expected that an individual would be both helped and hindered by others in his/her attempts to change consumption patterns. These a priori assumptions influenced our data collection and analysis. Our research question, then, was: How does a person learn and negotiate his/her own version of a vegetarian consumption pattern?

METHOD

A semistructured depth interview method was used to explore the vegetarianism adoption process among consumers to whom vegetarianism was originally unfamiliar. Our objective was not an ethnographic portrayal; our interest was to explore initial themes about consumption system acquisition. We interviewed eight people who were referred to us through a local health food cooperative or by word of mouth. Participants ranged from those who once had practiced a strict vegetarian diet to those who ate chicken or fish occasionally (see the Table for participant profiles). Length of time and commitment to being vegetarian varied as did stage of acquisition. Three participants were early in the process; three had been at it for many years. Two participants who no longer consumed a meatless diet told us about their past "meatless" experiences. Self-perceived motives for becoming vegetarian varied as well age, occupation, gender, marital and family status. All the participants were raised in omnivorous households and thus were originally unfamiliar with vegetarianism. Each participant lived in a location where s/he had ready access to information, products, and other resources that could guide the acquisition process.

Both authors individually conducted interviews. The backgrounds and perspectives we brought to bear on the data collection and analysis include one of us who is semi-vegetarian (eating chicken or fish occasionally) and the other who has family involvement in the cattle industry. This contrast in perspectives allowed a reliability check during data analysis.

Each interview lasted at least one hour. The interviewer first explained the interview's purpose and the nature of the questions. Then, the interviewer asked basic informational questions (e.g., what kind of vegetarian?). Next the participant was asked to explain how he or she became a vegetarian; how did s/he go about it; who and what helped or hindered the process? Three interviews were conducted by phone. An audio recorder was used for all but one of the eight interviews; tapes were transcribed for subsequent analysis.

Each interview was analyzed for themes; then themes common across interviews were identified and built into a description of the process. The results of this analysis are described next.

PROCESS OF VEGETARIAN CONSUMPTION SYSTEM ACQUISITION

A multidimensional process describes the transformation from mainstream eating habits to the adoption of vegetarianism. We chose these labels to reflect the nature of the overlapping stages and events we observed: the undercurrent, the touchstone experience, achieving a meatfree diet, and adopting vegetarianism.

The Undercurrent

The mosaic of situations and circumstances that led each informant to consider a change in eating patterns composes the undercurrent. Each experienced a unique set of situations and circumstances, yet trends emerged: interest in animal rights (Donna, Tony, Barb), spiritual reasons (Clarise), health reasons (Donna, Clarise, Barb, Nikki), political activism (Bob), environmentalism (Barb, Tony, Donna) and a distaste for meat (Carrie, Clarise, Barb, and Amanda). Behavior changed during, and as a result of, the undercurrent stage. Informants consciously began to reduce the amount of meat and/or certain meat products (e.g., hot dogs) in their diets. The duration of this period varied from just a few months (Donna, Barb and Tony) to many years (Amanda).

First I guess it started when I read an article in Newsweek about Japan's diets that were mostly carbohydrates and have some fish in them. Then over the summer I was trying to diet and get into shape and I just didn't eat as much meat. (Donna)

It's probably been a gradual process over the last year. It was just a growing concern in myself both for environmentalism and for issues, animal rights and things like that. (Barb)

The diet change largely came out of political grounds; I got involved in [activism concerning] illegal tuna fishing practices; I did a lot of research, banning seafood from my diet kind of opened up the door. (Bob)

These circumstances interacted with interpersonal and socio-cultural influences as part of the undercurrent.

Interpersonal Influences. At least one other person who was already vegetarian significantly affected each participant's behaviors.

I got on a kick of not eating red meat or fish...Then I ended up with a roommate who was a strict vegetarian for spiritual reasons. So then it was easy for me to transfer [to a meatless, eggless diet]. (Clarise)

When I was 19 I went to Israel...I went off meat for 1 year...A cousin whom I was living with over there was a full vegetarian his whole life...He was really a good influence, a big influence on me...(Amanda)

My roommate is a vegetarian...[but] I didn't really believe in being a vegetarian. Then I read another article in the Wall Street Journal about how some guy who ate mussels and something happened because of the nuclear waste in the water. And then I just picked up some of her books around the apartment...and I read about it. And decided I'm just going to try not to eat any meat. (Donna)

Socio-cultural trends and the media. Similar to Donna's reading about nuclear waste and Japanese diets, other informational influences tended to symbolize and motivate emergence of the vegetarian diet. Bob's activism-related reading resulted in a "huge file of articles about the fishing industry and its worldwide effects on the environment". Nikki read the vegetarian classic Diet for a Small Planet. Barb gathered information about use of animals for product testing in the cosmetic industry, in which she had been employed. Both Tony and Barb reflected upon the symbolism in a movie, as Tony explained:

When we saw "City Slickers" where Billy Crystal said "Norman, [the calf he saved and befriended], you don't have to become lunch" we said we had made the right decision and that was just like the final kicker, but I have a feeling that if that hadn't been the final one, it would have been the first one.

The socio-cultural and interpersonal influences interacted with personal experiences to set the stage for a key behavioral change-deleting meat from one's diet.

The Touchstone Experience

Each informant encountered a touchstone experience, i.e., a specific event that served as an impetus to finally delete meat or animal products completely from their diets. Every participant could identify this specific event and credited it as their motivation for choosing a meatless diet.

The last day I ate meat was Thanksgiving. It was pretty simple and I felt pretty good about myself and then I got this book. It's called The Diet for a New America. It explained and went through everything that the animals go through, basically how they are tortured and even if you don't care about the animals, all the drugs they're pumped up with, their horrible eating habits...so, I decided that when I came back from Christmas break I wasn't going to eat any dairy or eggs. (Donna)

One of the things that really encouraged us and got us to think about [it] was when we visited Barb's uncle; he has a ranch in Colorado; he had been a beef rancher and he sold off all of his cattle except for two. We were feeding these two nice, brown gentle animals eating out of our hands. We asked about them. "Well, how come you still have these two?" and he said, "One is Rosie and the other is lunch." And when he said that it was like, Oh, that's right. You know, we were feeding our food and we just couldn't deal with that very well. And from there it just became a conscious effort to try and avoid meat and meat products. (Tony)

I had pulled out a package of chicken breasts to prepare them and they were all bloody and I almost got sick. At that point I said I don't want to do this anymore. (Carrie)

The impact of these experiences, combined with the emerging undercurrent moved the person to drop meat from his/her diet.

TABLE 1

PERSONAL PROFILE OF INFORMANTS

Achieving A Meatfree Diet

The goal was not to become a vegetarian, but to achieve a meatfree diet. This was not equivalent to adopting vegetarianism or becoming a vegetarian. Eating a meatfree diet was something the participants did, but it was not something they were becoming or aspiring to.

More than making a conscious effort to become vegetarian, it was more a conscious effort to become a non-meateater; which I know sounds unusual, but it was more that you made deliberate efforts to try and cut out on the amount of meat in the meal; rather than consciously saying "I want to become a vegetarian," (Tony)

I just stopped eating meat; it wasn't difficult and I became comfortable with it really quickly; I didn't even think about it. (Carrie)

Participants simply deleted meat from the diet, typically by adapting traditional recipes to be meatless. Otherwise, the composition of the diet did not change much; new products were not incorporated.

We started out by just trying to find recipes ...in our current cookbooks to find recipes that sounded good and we found ourselves going to recipes that were similar to what we would have eaten with red meat, but just missing the meat, like a vegetable stroganoff instead of beef stroganoff. (Barb)

My meals are pretty much the same. Maybe a little bit more because vegetables aren't as filling. ...I don't really know that much. I just eat regular foods that I used to eat only I don't have [meat, dairy, or eggs] in them. (Donna)

Dropping meat from the diet was a simple and straightforward thing to do. Yet, each participant stressed the difficulty of sustaining a completely meatfree diet over time. Therefore, striking to us was the lack of overt information searching for guidance on achieving this challenging goal, especially given the many resources available. Participants regarded what they were doing as an act of deletion (which did not require new information), rather than an act of change or seeking new consumption behaviors (which would have required new products and new information.)

Not everyone moved beyond this stage. Informants who have not yet achieved a completely meatfree diet are still working on it (Barb, Tony). Others did practice a meatfree diet, but then returned to eating an omnivorous diet (Amanda, Carrie). However, an essential step in the process of acquiring vegetarianism required a stripping away of the old, realized with the achievement of a meatless diet. Then the informants were free to take on the new, as if putting on a mantle. Adoption of vegetarianism was the final stage in the process.

Adoption of Vegetarianism

Reaching this final stage of the process required a sustained commitment to vegetarian consumption patterns, an accumulation of knowledge via information and skills, the passage of time, and the adoption of the label "vegetarian".

Commitment. Strict adherence to the demands of a vegetarian diet revealed commitment. Interviewees with the most restrictive diets expressed a perception of a personal stake in remaining true to their decision to delete meat. These same participants credited the transformation to vegetarianism with positive changes in their nature.

This is the one area of my life that I have been disciplined [in] and I feel good about it. Quite frankly it helps with my self esteem. (Clarise)

Physically I feel like I have more energy. I feel better sticking to what I believe...I don't think I'm really losing anything [and am gaining] some self-discipline and self respect. I think I'm going to be healthier. (Donna)

These types of comments were absent from those still attempting to rid meat from their diets. Those who reverted to eating meat expressed negative changes (e.g., excessive weight loss, decline in health).

Active Information Search. After a time, the lack of variety and the feeling of being at a loss for what to cook became intolerable. The duration of this period varied. The search for information seemed driven by the need-to-know, by necessity. At this point, the participant purchased a cookbook, subscribed to a magazine (e.g. Vegetarian Times), and/or sought substitute food items (e.g., tofu, soy-cheese, nut-burgers).

This information search reflected developing commitment. Participants who did so sensed that they were in this for the long haul and needed to do something. Those who reverted to eating meat (Carrie and Amanda), did not get themselves over this information dearth. Amanda, for example, stated that she was not willing to make the required effort.

The process of learning and adopting appear to be iterative. By the time one is a vegetarian, s/he knows how to "do it". For example, long time vegetarians spoke of products and procedures not mentioned by recent converts or those who had quit the diet. Nikki, for example, described how she made her own soy milk, yogurt, and juice when her son was a baby. These things she learned from cookbooks or her husband. Clarise talked about cooking with tofu as a protein booster. She also attributed important learning about new foods and methods to her participation in a pro-vegetarian spiritual group. Time, learning, and experimentation resulted in the adoption of new products, as well.

Label Adoption. An important reflection of the level of commitment was the adoption (or not) of "vegetarian" as a label for one's eating patterns. Time appeared to play a role in the adoption of the label. The participants who had practiced a vegetarian diet for a long time readily classified themselves as such.

Conversely, when asked how she described her eating habits, Donna, who had only three weeks earlier deleted all animal products from her diet responded, "I guess I'd call me a vegan." She chose the label "vegan", but in a tentative way. Although she had been adhering strictly to her decision, she apparently was not comfortable in announcing "I am a vegan." Tony classified himself with a description of how he was trying to delete meat from his diet. He had not adopted a vegetarian label. Amanda completely rejected the vegetarian label, although she continued to consume very little meat.

Notably, even the more experienced participants expressed a certain discomfort with the vegetarian label for describing who they were. They readily agreed they ate like a vegetarian, but were reluctant to be known as a vegetarian. They disliked being stereotyped, as Bob described, as one of the "bug-mobile Birkenstock wearing crowd". Although they associated themselves with the label, it did not describe an identity by which they wished to be known.

Commitment and The Role of Others. Messages from others supported or challenged commitment. Family, friends, and other interpersonal interactions served as important social support systems for the maintenance of commitment to the meatless diet. Non-vegetarian parents, sisters, brothers, or friends would prepare meals or fix special foods to accommodate the vegetarian. Guests respectfully submitted to vegetarian meals served at the participant's home. Meat consuming friends agreed to go out to restaurants where the vegetarian could get something to eat. Those who adopted vegetarianism consistently reported behavioral support from those who respected the vegetarian's commitment.

Not surprisingly certain social hindrances competed with the support systems as the following comments illustrate.

Tony's brother [made it harder]...[he] insists on having meatloaf every time he comes because he love's Tony's meatloaf. So he made it tough, and he's always abusing us because we're "sticks-in-the-mud's" and won't eat meat. (Barb)

When I was pregnant with Josh, my obstetrician was very critical of the vegetarian diet...it's hard on your own against the experts. (Nikki)

My family had a difficult time understanding that I wasn't eating meat...There's not many vegetarians in Nebraska...there's a different mindset. You eat meat and potatoes and vegetarians are sissies. (Carrie)

The difficulty of finding good restaurants to go with friends or impression management concerns in professional situations (e.g., business dinners) put vegetarians in challenging situations. Discretion in revealing dietary preferences was the typical approach and participants used realistic strategies to cope. Clarise, for example, described a conference luncheon where she traded chicken for vegetables with someone at her table. And going ahead and eating some of a forbidden food was another accommodating strategy to avoid social embarrassment or hurting another's feelings. Nikki chose not to complain to her son's babysitter about feeding him the wrong foods because she felt the older woman's love for the child was more important.

The Role of Personal Resources. The relative cost of a meatless diet was not an issue for any of the participants. Several felt they were spending less in the grocery store. However, the constraint of limited time resources was more salient. Meal selection and preparation took more time (e.g., chopping vegetables) as did shopping (e.g., to examine ingredients lists on packages).

Consumer knowledge was the other personal constraint that interacted with time. Participants needed to learn what to cook, what ingredients to buy, where to shop, or how to prepare a healthy meatless meal. Surprisingly, this lack of knowledge did not always lead to information seeking, as one might expect for such a highly involving consumption pattern. The learning was more a process of experimentation and discovery than planned and organized.

Not an "Issue". All participants wished to avoid their eating habits becoming an issue with others. Each expressed the desire that their eating habits not become a barrier to personal or professional relationships. These concerns surfaced in different contexts.

When dining out in public, participants developed strategies to prevent uncomfortable situations: calling restaurants before selecting one, asking the waiter to request a vegetarian dish, eating before going out, or eating only "legal foods", e.g., salad, baked potatoes, french fries.

Sometimes I'll call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if they can prepare a vegetarian meal. (Clarise)

It is tough...I've discovered that if you do ask, they will generally provide something that's very good and often its better than what's on the menu because it's fresher. (Barb)

It hasn't been a problem. Either I'll eat before or I'll just snack, like I'll just have french fries or something that I can eat there. (Donna)

Another strategy was to ask about the ingredients while ordering. This did not appear to be an optimal solution (mentioned by only Clarise), and she noted that if she did not feel comfortable asking, rather than draw attention to the issue, she would eat the food in question. Bob also noted the role of discretion in developing a dining out strategy that for him meant periodically eating chicken.

All expressed a desire for restaurants to feature vegetarian meals. Selecting a restaurant had become much more difficult. A decline in the frequency of eating out was a direct result of their change in eating habits.

To this day I don't have a list of restaurants that I like to go to. Sometimes it will bother me because somebody will say well let's go out for dinner, where would you like to go? I don't know. Where will they serve a vegetarian meal? (Clarise)

I am eating at home more than I would have been because there's not that much outside. [Before] if I was lazy I'd just go get a sandwich or a burger or something. Now, I can't, there's nothing out there. (Donna)

I think [we are eating out] less because its difficult for us to find things, especially if its on the spur of the moment. Like if you want a pizza or something. You don't want pepperoni and you don't want sausage, so it just requires more thought, more planning. (Barb)

"Not making a scene" extended to dining out in other people's homes as well. A common strategy was to take their own food when invited to someone's home.

Typically, I end up having Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family and that works out fine. Christmas I go to my brother's in Dallas and I'm responsible for taking my own chickettes [tofu chicken substitutes] and I take the makings for cheese fondue. (Clarise)

I don't want people to go out of their way, to cook me special food or anything like that. I'll probably have to end up bringing my own things. (Donna)

Preparing meat dishes for guests in their homes and not eating it themselves was also a common occurrence.

I can't remember the last meal I cooked for myself that involved meat. I did make a meatloaf for my brother that I felt awful about but... it was a birthday present for him, so I made it and never had any of it.... (Tony)

This is the first year we've had guests for Thanksgiving...The thought of seeing that bird sitting there in the middle of the table sounds really pretty disgusting. We'll have a...turkey and everything...because they are guests...and we've invited them. (Barb)

Such social situations were negotiated by each participant with other's feelings and preferences in mind. It was important to minimize conspicuousness of their own dietary practices, whether the participant was a novice or experienced vegetarian. They wished to manage commitment yet avoid being stereotyped or misunderstood.

In general, the participants negotiated the social landscape through trial and error, common sense, and creativity. Mastering the "how-to's" of coping with these social situations, as well as consumer knowledge, played an important role in the emergence of the consumption pattern.

Summary. Achieving a meatless diet took a different form for each participant, yet we observed a shared multidimensional process. The undercurrent of personal, interpersonal, and socio-cultural influences converged in participants' initial dietary meat reduction strategies. But, it took a touchstone experience to delete meat. All respondents achieved a meatless diet for a time. But not everyone adopted vegetarianism. The process was influenced by personal time and knowledge resources and other people's helps or hindrances. Mastering the how-to's of social situations was as important as learning to prepare a meatless meal for learning this system.

DISCUSSION

Our objective was to begin to understand how individuals learned their own way of doing the vegetarian consumption system. Several features of the process that we described deserve attention in future investigations.

Emergent vs. deliberate process. Most striking was the participants' lack of information search and planning when changing their eating patterns. There was a tendency to read about vegetarianism motives (e.g., animal rights). Yet, although participants were eventually forced into some information seeking (e.g., buying a cookbook), there was very little investigation of the vegetarian diet and its how-to's. We found this remarkable, given the resources available to each participant.

Rather than take a direct or planned approach, participants took a gradual, winding path to their goal, stopping along the way to regroup and learn more, try new things, negotiate the challenges. Acquisition of the new consumption system was more emergent than directed. Neither models of the involved, deliberate information seeker nor models of low involvement behavior explain this type of consumer learning.

Stripping away the old consumption pattern. We observed a multidimensional process that required the person to release the old consumption behaviors (become meat-free) before the new system could be adopted. How similar are other, less radical changes in dietary patterns? If the driving force is the desire to lose weight or achieve better health, is the process the same? Is this sort of shedding a prerequisite for taking on other new consumption patterns?

Socially embedded process. Other people were important in supporting or hindering the vegetarian learning process. Mastering the how-to's of social situations was as important as learning how to prepare a meatless meal. Participants expressed appreciation for social support, yet wished to downplay their dietary practices. Issues arising from meals shared with others were a universal concern. Thus, this process is clearly socially embedded. Future investigators of consumption system learning should investigate it as such.

What is this process? It is tempting to consider this an identity acquisition process-i.e., becoming a vegetarian. Such issues as label adoption, shedding old behaviors, commitment to new behaviors, or managing social interactions suggest as much. However, we are not at all certain that adopting the consumption system (eating like a vegetarian) is isomorphic with identity adoption (being a vegetarian). For example, we did not observe that a discernable identity transformation (to that of being vegetarian) was necessary for consumer behavior to change (cf. Schouten 1991). Moreover, our participants were not being brought along by initiating groups, nor did circumstances force them to change. And none of them were directing themselves toward a clearly defined goal or set of norms, beyond becoming "meatfree". Although it may involve an eventual change in the extended self (Belk 1988), the process may differ from traditionally studied transitions (e.g., becoming a physician or a sorority member) because it is so bound to the consumer learning and marketplace available resources used to make the change. There are many ways to eat a meatless diet; each participant developed his/her own version of doing the consumption pattern. It may be that the marketplace makes this possible.

Exploring parallels with the one-thing-leads-to-another feature of the consumption based Diderot effect (McCracken 1988) may inform future investigations. Adoption of vegetarian consumption patterns also may accompany changes in other consumption systems (e.g., attire and appearance, household energy consumption), based on a value such as voluntary simplicity (e.g., Leonard-Barton 1981).

In conclusion, becoming vegetarian is inseparable from the products that must be avoided or consumed, yet assuming this consumption pattern comprises far more than buyer behavior changes. It is clearly a socially embedded process, yet it emerges according to each person's own way of doing things. These results invite further investigation of the acquisition of vegetarianism as well as other unfamiliar (to the consumer) consumptions systems.

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