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Danish consumers’ attitudes towards functional foods

Listed author(s):
  • Poulsen, Jacob

    (The MAPP Centre, Aarhus School of Business)

Registered author(s):

    1. “Functional foods” is a relatively new term used to describe food products which have been enriched with natural substances/components with a specific physiological preventive and/or health-promoting effect. As yet, there are few actual functional foods in the Danish market, but in Japan and the USA, where these products are relatively common, sales are enjoying growth rates far above those for conventional products. 2. The aim of this study is to examine Danish consumers’ attitudes to functional foods, including: whether enrichment with health-promoting substances results in a higher value perception among consumers; the relative importance consumers attach to enrichment compared with other product attributes; which beliefs consumers associate with enrichment; and, which beliefs influence and determine consumers’ purchasing intentions and the relative importance of these beliefs. 3. The study consists of three analyses: focus-group interviews, the aim of which is to get an overview of the issue and generate input for the quantitative analyses. The quantitative analyses consist of a conjoint analysis and a survey based on the Theory of Reasoned Action. These analyses are based on concrete, non-existent examples of functional foods, a dairy product and a bread product, each of which has been enriched with three different substances: a) soluble food fibre, b) omega-3, and c) calcium and vitamin D. 4. The focus-group interviews show that the main beliefs which consumers associate with functional foods are the convenience of enrichment through daily diet, (un)naturalness, apprehension about changes in taste, higher price, uncertainty about belief in the effect of enrichment, dosage (when is there enough/ too much of the enrichment substance), own ignorance and uncertainty about manufacturers’ knowledge of the health effects of eating enriched products. The respondents have very little knowledge of functional foods and were fairly sceptical. However, attitudes to concrete examples of functional foods were much more positive than attitudes to the concept of functional foods. 5. The conjoint analyses show that, in general, consumers preferred the non-enriched variety, though with the exception of bread enriched with fibre, since the benefit of this is greater than for the conventional product. About 75% of consumers attach relatively more importance to enrichment than the other product attributes. For about 30% of consumers in the case of the dairy product and 50% in the case of the bread product, enrichment in one of the three forms resulted in a higher value perception, while about 25% and 40% respectively attached a lot of importance to the products not being enriched. 6. The cluster analysis identified several segments with a preference for the various enriched products. Two relatively large segments (25% and 20% of respondents respectively) had a higher value perception for the enriched than for the conventional product, especially as regards the calcium and vitamin D-enriched dairy product and the fibre-enriched bread product, and these segments also attach relatively more importance to enrichment than the other product attributes. The analysis also identified a large segment with a preference for the calcium and vitamin D-enriched bread product, about 30% of respondents saying they preferred this product variety and 35% saying they attached relatively great importance to enrichment. Only very few respondents preferred enrichment with omega-3, which was also the case for enrichment with fibre in the dairy product. 7. In general, attitudes to enrichment are more positive as regards the bread product and product varieties enriched with substances already present in the conventional product. However, attitudes are generally more negative as regards enrichment with omega-3 than with the two other substances. On the whole, consumers’ attitudes to functional foods depend on both the type of product enriched, the enrichment substance and the combination of these. 8. The questionnaire survey shows that consumers’ purchasing intentions as regards the various enriched products are almost solely explained by their attitudes to purchasing the respective product varieties (attitude to behaviour, AB), and only to a very small extent by the subjective norm (SN). The beliefs which explain AB, and thus also purchasing intentions, are: perceived convenience of getting the enrichment substance through the daily diet (explains on average 42% of the explained variation in AB for the various product varieties), price (21%) perceived naturalness of the enriched products (18%), and the perceived positive health effect of eating the enriched rather than the conventional product (14%). 9. There are no systematic differences or similarities in the relative importance of the individual beliefs for AB as regards product, enrichment substance or the combination of these. There are, on the other hand, systematic absolute differences between the mean values for the product varieties. The means are thus generally higher (more positive attitude and higher purchasing intentions) for enriched varieties of the bread product and in those cases where products have been enriched with a substance that already occurs naturally in the conventional product. An analysis of variance shows that the perceived naturalness of the enriched product is the most explanatory belief for how positive respondents’ initial attitudes are to the concrete product varieties. 10. As regards demographic differences, the study shows that the elderly and women are more positive about functional foods than the other respondents. No differences were found with regard to income or educational level. 11. The most important implications of the study are that the development of functional foods should take a starting point in concepts which consumers regard as relatively natural. In this connection, both the conventional product itself, the enrichment substance and the combination of these have a certain importance. Thus, consumers are most positive about functional foods which have been enriched with a substance already present in the conventional product. With regard to price, the analyses show that some segments are willing to pay more for functional foods if they think there is a health effect. The marketing of functional foods should emphasise the convenience of getting enrichment substances through the daily diet and naturalness, since these factors are the most important in determining consumers’ intention to buy functional foods

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    Paper provided by University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, The MAPP Centre in its series MAPP Working Papers with number 62.

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    Length: 49 pages
    Date of creation: 01 Jan 1999
    Handle: RePEc:hhb:aarmap:0062
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    The Aarhus School of Business, The MAPP Centre, Fuglesangs Allé 4, DK-8210 Aarhus V, Denmark

    Phone: +45 89 48 66 88
    Fax: + 45 86 15 01 88
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    1. Sheppard, Blair H & Hartwick, Jon & Warshaw, Paul R, 1988. " The Theory of Reasoned Action: A Meta-analysis of Past Research with Recommendations for Modifications and Future Research," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 325-343, December.
    2. K. K. Lancaster, 2010. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1385, David K. Levine.
    3. Green, Paul E & Srinivasan, V, 1978. " Conjoint Analysis in Consumer Research: Issues and Outlook," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 103-123, Se.
    4. Wells, William D, 1993. " Discovery-Oriented Consumer Research," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(4), pages 489-504, March.
    5. Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132-132.
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