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Consumer Analysis

Significant predictors of functional food consumption are related to consumers‘ health motivation, perceived diet effectiveness of products, and knowledge about nutrition (Landström et al., 2007, Petrovici & Ritson, 2006). There is evidence that consumers most likely to have a positive attitude toward functional foods are the ones who have faced illness among relatives or have experienced illness themselves (Verbeke, 2005). Chronic diseases are strongly associated with the demand for functional foods, products targeted at preventing widespread diseases such as heart diseases and cancer capture a great deal of attention from consumers (West et al., 2002). Therefore, it is important to understand predominant public health issues in a targeted market because they strongly dictate consumer behaviour toward the purchase and consumption of products with health claims.

The literature is conflicting with respect to the demographic profile of functional food consumers. Studies developed in different markets have shown results either highlighting stronger purchase behaviour by females or no gender differences. Both higher and lower levels of education have been associated with positive attitudes toward functional foods (Herath et al., 2008; Urala & Lähteenmäki, 2007; de Jong et al., 2003; Verbeke, 2005). Regarding age groups, it seems that older consumers perceive the use of functional foods as more beneficial than younger consumers (Herath et al., 2008; Landström et al., 2007). This relationship may be explained by the expo-sure of older consumers to more health problems.

Level of income may also play a role in functional food consumption, but research data lack consistency. Some studies show that consumption of functional foods is associated with lower income households (Herath et al., 2008). Others, however, highlight that it is a market dominated by well-off consumers, arguing that packaged functional foods tend to be available at a premium price and are perhaps beyond the reach of consumers with modest incomes, particularly retired consumers where the incidence of poverty is high (Petrovici & Ritson, 2006).

The conflicting information found in the literature highlights the importance for companies to understand consumers in their global markets and define target audiences in a strategic manner. However it is evident that consumer experience in terms of health and illness play a significant role in consumers purchase decision.

Overview

• Demographics play a minor role in consumer acceptance of functional food, however some research indicates differences in gender, age and possibly income. With education level, income and geographic location having little impact.
• There is evidence for stronger purchase behavior from females.
• Education level has little impact on consumer attitude towards functional food.
• Older consumers perceive functional foods to be more beneficial than younger age groups.
• Research into how income effects purchase decision lacks consistency, however research and market factors do suggest that functional food products are often premium priced and beyond the reach of lower income earners.
• Consumer behavior factors consumers that influence purchase of functional foods: health motivation, perceived diet effectiveness of products, and knowledge about nutrition.
• Consumers are more positive towards functional foods if they or close ones have experienced illness.
• Chronic diseases are strongly related to the demand for functional food.