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The Food Consumer In The 21st Century: New Research Perspectives


  • Senauer, Benjamin


A far more complex set of factors are now driving food consumption patterns in high-income countries than economists have traditionally analyzed in demand studies. Food consumers have moved up Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid from satisfying basic physiological needs. If the traditional focus was on quantity demands for homogenous commodities, attention needs to increasingly be given to the demand for quality-differentiated food products. Although the income elasticity in terms of quantity may be low, the elasticity for many food attributes, such as nutrition and health, safety, convenience, and diversity, are quite high. Where people buy food, the form in which they buy and where they eat it are all changing. To simply distinguish between food consumed at home and away from home is no longer adequate. Rapid demographic and socioeconomic changes, such as the massive entrance of women into the workforce and increasing multi-ethnicity, are a fundamental driver of food buying and dietary patterns. Research needs to give more attention to the demand for differentiated, frequently branded food products, to disaggregation of the population, and to a recognition that traditional demographic factors may have limited explanatory power. A specific research study is given as an example of each. The single quality-differentiation factor currently receiving the most attention is genetic modification. The difference in the general consumer acceptance of biotechnology and genetically modified foods between the United States and Europe is dramatic. Kevin Lancaster's consumer model can be utilized to more fully understand this difference, especially to distinguish between a difference in the perception of the risks and benefits of the technology and in the underlying consumer preferences for risk avoidance or naturalness in food.

Suggested Citation

  • Senauer, Benjamin, 2001. "The Food Consumer In The 21st Century: New Research Perspectives," Working Papers 14346, University of Minnesota, The Food Industry Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:umrfwp:14346
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.14346

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kinsey, Jean D. & Wolfson, Paul J. & Katsaras, Nikolaos & Senauer, Benjamin, 2001. "Data Mining: A Segmentation Analysis Of U.S. Grocery Shoppers," Working Papers 14335, University of Minnesota, The Food Industry Center.
    2. Park, Changwon & Senauer, Benjamin, 1996. "Estimation Of Household Brand-Size Choice Models For Spaghetti Products With Scanner Data," Working Papers 14336, University of Minnesota, The Food Industry Center.
    3. Rafael Cortez & Ben Senauer, 1996. "Taste Changes in the Demand for Food by Demographic Groups in the United States: A Nonparametric Empirical Analysis," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(2), pages 280-289.
    4. Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132-132.
    5. John M. Antle, 1999. "The New Economics of Agriculture," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 81(5), pages 993-1010.
    6. Carlson, Andrea & Kinsey, Jean D. & Nadav, Carmel, 1998. "Who Eats What, When, And From Where?," Working Papers 14312, University of Minnesota, The Food Industry Center.
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    Cited by:

    1. Xie, Jing & Hyeyoung, Kim & House, Lisa, 2014. "Valuing Information on GM Foods in the presence of Country-of-Origin Labels," International Journal on Food System Dynamics, International Center for Management, Communication, and Research, vol. 4(3), pages 1-14, February.
    2. Simon Chege Kimenju & Hugo De Groote, 2008. "Consumer willingness to pay for genetically modified food in Kenya," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 38(1), pages 35-46, January.
    3. Scholderer, Joachim & Grunert, Klaus G., 2005. "Consumers, food and convenience: The long way from resource constraints to actual consumption patterns," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 105-128, February.
    4. Ramo Barrena & Mercedes Sánchez, 2010. "Differences in Consumer Abstraction Levels as a Function of Risk Perception," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(1), pages 34-59, February.
    5. Mashinini, Nkosazana N., 2006. "Ross McLaren, Retired President and CEO, Shaw's Supermarket, Inc. - The Changing Consumer: Demanding but Predictable," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association, vol. 9(2), pages 1-6.
    6. Gentile, Natacha & Rodríguez, Elsa Mirta M., 2006. "El consumo de alimentos orgánicos: aplicación de un modelo logit multinomial a la elección del canal de compra," Nülan. Deposited Documents 1065, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Sociales, Centro de Documentación.
    7. Weatherspoon, Dave D. & Kuhns, Annemarie & Leschewski, Andrea & Dickens, Chris, 2015. "The Relationship between Supermarket Concentration and the Shopping Habits of the Urban Poor: a Prepared Foods Example," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205691, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    8. Onyango, Benjamin M. & Govindasamy, Ramu, 2005. "South Korean Public Preferences for Genetically Modified Foods: A Random-Parameter Model," Journal of Food Distribution Research, Food Distribution Research Society, vol. 36(1), pages 1-9, March.
    9. John Crespi & Stéphan Marette, 2003. "“Does Contain” vs. “Does Not Contain”: Does it Matter which GMO Label is Used?," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 327-344, November.
    10. Stone, Susan F. & Matysek, Anna & Dolling, Andrew, 2002. "Modelling Possible Impacts of GM Crops on Australian Trade," Staff Research Papers 31913, Productivity Commission.
    11. Thiele, S. & Weiss, C., 2003. "Consumer demand for food diversity: evidence for Germany," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 99-115, April.
    12. Rodríguez, Elsa Mirta M. & Lacaze, María Victoria, 2005. "Consumer's preferences for organic food in Argentina," Nülan. Deposited Documents 1291, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Sociales, Centro de Documentación.
    13. Barreira, Maria Madalena & Brandao, A.R.W. & Lemos, Jose Pedro Cardoso & Fontes, Magda Aguiar, 2009. "Quality perception of PDO beef producers," Agricultural Economics Review, Greek Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 10(2), pages 1-14, July.
    14. Onyango, Benjamin M. & Govindasamy, Ramu & Nayga, Rodolfo M., Jr., 2004. "An Application Of Choice Modeling To Measure U.S. Consumer Preferences For Genetically Modified Foods," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 19964, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    15. Tiziana De Magistris, 2004. "Le Determinanti Del Comportamento Del Consumatore: Analisi Teorica E Verifica Empirica Per I Prodotti Biologici," Working Papers 2_2004, D.E.S. (Department of Economic Studies), University of Naples "Parthenope", Italy.
    16. Onyango, Benjamin M. & Govindasamy, Ramu & Nayga, Rodolfo M., Jr., 2004. "Measuring U.S. Consumer Preferences For Genetically Modified Foods Using Choice Modeling Experiments: The Role Of Price, Product Benefits And Technology," Research Reports 18181, Rutgers University, Food Policy Institute.


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