Consumer behavior theory addresses all aspects of buying in relation to the consumer (Perner L. et al 2007). The theory explains the consumer’s decision-making process when buying and consuming the products. “Consumer behavior refers to the process and activities people engage in when searching for, selecting, purchasing, using, evaluating and disposing of products and services so as to satisfy their needs and desires” (Belch and Belch, 2004). In consumer behavior, consumers are considered not to be completely rational in decision-making. Consumers are unable to scrutinize every product before coming to a purchase decision. Individuals have limited free time and mental resources resulting in marketers taking advantage of the marketing environment.
The food industry is targeting consumer demands for healthier food products which have been influenced by high-profile government policies and warnings about the “obesity epidemic”.Consumers are therefore seeking ways of maintaining and improving their personal health. In Australia, packaged food products are influenced by food convenience, health, indulgence, and ethnicity. The research paper will examine the food industry using the consumer theory in explaining consumer decision-making and influence on food consumption.
Criteria in decision-making
In the market of any food product, consumers’ mental processing is of two types. The first processing type is systematic processing which involves depth analysis and scrutinization of all stimuli in the environment. In this form of processing, consumers first analyze food products to determine if they satisfy their nutritional demands. Another type is heuristic processing where consumers take mental short-cuts to make a decision for example use of a famous individual to market a product in advertisements. Food products that are presumed to be healthy and use famous personalities in their advertisements will receive a greater purchasing rate than those without. Consumers tend to relate the product with the famous person that they like or admire.
The food industry is challenged with competing for food products that the consumers are seeking in order to maintain and improve their personal health coupled with the demand to produce ‘meal solutions’ to increasing market demand. For example, the Australian dried apricots are considered sulfur free, sugar-free and with full color and flavor.The apricots are a solution to those who suffer from asthma, (Australian Food Exporters, www.foodadequate.com/members/nutfruitberries/afi.html.) This food product has been produced to satisfy the increasing demands of the people to eat healthy foods and prevent health problems that arise. Consumer’s rational choices require access to the options, in addition to necessary time and information that is needed to choose.
The decision making process is first triggered by a stimuli. This is related to consumer perception about the food product. Perception can be said to be an approximation of reality. This is whereby the consumer’s brain tries to make or derive sense out of the stimuli to which they are exposed to the extent of a stimuli that a consumer encounters depend on the exposure of the food product being marketed to the consumer. Positive perception about food products will depend on how healthy it is considered to be by the consumers. High fat foods are perceived to be unhealthy and will receive very low purchase rates. For example exposure through billboards, radio advertisements, signs and banners in shopping malls create maximum exposure of the product to the consumer. Consumers will be influenced to purchase the food products they consider healthy (cannot cause obesity), in addition to the fact that these foods have been exposed to them through advertisements. The increased exposure, trigger a stimuli which create the consumer’s positive perception towards the brand.
Greater prominence of a food product considered to cater for changed ‘healthy eating’ attitudes increase the likelihood of processing a stimuli. The features of the food products determine the degree of attention the product is given by the consumers. For example, consumers will give their attention to a product with unique food components compared to the ones without.For example, the Green seas tuna new premium ranges and flavors introduction attracts consumer’s attention due to a high nutritional components.
The internal search by the consumer about the best food product to purchase will be based on past experiences with the product. External search will put into consideration previous experiences of family members or close friends’ with the food product. Learning define a change in the content or organization of long term memory. Consumers learn more about the products from their previous consumption. A high quality product earlier consumed will encourage a consumer to come back and buy the product again. A product that had earlier satisfied the customer needs is likely to be purchased again. Similarly a consumer who has had a bad experience with a given food brand will avoid buying it again.
The consumer evaluates all food products that are available in the market to identify the most ‘healthy’ product with an affordable price. Manufactured food products that offer a solution to ‘obesity epidemic’ in Australia will be selected against those with high-fat content. The brand should enhance the consumer’s personality for example the demand for healthy packaged food is due to the people’s desire to have the average body size. Some individuals prefer to have the naturally maintained body and look and so will go for natural foods. The Barossa Olive oil company is well known for produced olive oil with the natural components intact. The olives are normally cold pressed within hours of harvesting to maintain the special natural juice,(www.foodadequate.com/members/nutfruitberries/afi.html). This personality developed in people will influence people to purchase food types that will ensure healthy and natural bodies.This is complimented by the self-image of the consumer.
In the decision-making process, formation of intention develops from the consumer’s attitude about the food product. Behavioral intention as a logical consequence of beliefs may result to a consumer buying the product due to known facts about the product, for example a consumer may take it as a fact that certain food types have certain nutritional components. A consumer attaches value to the given food product, leading to the consumer’s purchase of the manufactured food product. Food products that are viewed as having low nutritional values are not consumed. The consumption of the product will be due to the consumer’s conviction that the food is convenience and healthy. Finally, the consumption of the chosen food types will give an outcome that will determine whether the consumer will continue to purchase the product all over again.
The role of individual decision-making and group influence on food consumption attitudes towards categories of food products.
Decision-making is an outcome of an individual’s mental processes that lead to the selection of a course of action among the several available alternatives (James. R., 1990). An individual’s decision making seeks a solution to a problem. In our case, the problem is the “obesity epidemic”. This has influenced people to seek healthy foods in the market to solve this problem. The people seek to solve the problem by turning to more healthy foods (low in fat). The people’s desire to consume healthy foods based on their decision to consume only the healthy foods, change their attitudes towards some given food product types. Those that have high fat content are rejected while more healthy ones are purchased resulting to different rates of purchase in the available food products found in the market.
Group influences affects the people’s decision towards given food types, a product’s consumption plus the attitudes towards it by the consumers. For example, food types that are preferred by a certain group of people influence individuals that belong to the group to continue consuming them and even encourage those who have never consumed the food types to do so. Different cultural groups have their ethnic dishes. Members of a certain ethnic group or race are likely to consume food types that are related to their culture, more than any other group.For instance, a study conducted in Japan, showed that young people prefer sprouts as antioxidant in case of vegetables whose mature forms are not popular at the market (Michie.M et al, 2007).
Household requirements influence decisions where the requirements develop the demand the consumption of a certain food type. This is because certain eating habits will develop from constant household consumption.Due to the food type consumption in a household set up, some food types are likely to be bought in consistency or in increased rates. Those that are rarely consumed in the household will be purchased in much lower rates.Those that can be afforded by the household will be continue to be purchased and consumed while those that cannot be afforded are not purchased. The B-d Farm Paris Creek produces bio-dynamic yoghurt, milk and quark. These products are consumed in some households due to their natural colors and flavors in addition to having organically certified ingredients.
Culture play a big role in individual’s perception about certain foods and determine the decision made by the people in that cultural set-up,( James R. 1990).A group’s culture promotes influence on the consumer’s perception on the food types in the market and varies with different groups of people. For example ethnic food types depend on the culture of a given ethnic group. The group’s knowledge, belief, art, morals and customs about the certain food types influence the individuals in the group to purchase and consume a food type that suits their culture.The culture will give value to given food types while another food type is accorded little or no value. The food types with greater value as dictated by the culture will have a greater rate of purchase and consumption compared to others.
It is important to note that individual decisions that are made about food products result to use of the consumer behavior knowledge. Companies develop food types that will satisfy the unsatisfied needs of the consumers. Food types that will be produced from the consumer knowledge and are identified to satisfy the needs of the people will have a higher rate of consumption and will get positive attitudes from consumers. The manufacturing companies improve their products to satisfy identified consumer needs. Improved products receive greater rate of consumption since consumers view it as solving their health problems.
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