Consumers value several attributes when they make food purchase decisions. Food values refer to underlying consumer preferences that include food quality, taste, price, nutrition, health, safety, and how a product is produced. How meat and dairy products are produced, whether or not production practices are documented or audited, and how raw products are processed are of increasing interest to consumers. The goal of this research was to determine relative rankings of food values and assess food value ranking variance among US consumers.
A survey was conducted from a broad representative sample of US consumers based on Census data with 1,950 respondents. Using a technique referred to as best-worst scaling, the consumers answered a set of questions that enabled us to rank their preferences for 11 different food values for ground beef, steak, chicken breast, and fluid milk. The 11 attributes were food safety, product freshness, nutrition, healthiness of consuming, taste, price, hormone/antibiotic free production, animal welfare assurance, environmental impact of production, origin of product, and product convenience to prepare.
Safety ranked either first or second most important for each of the four products. Freshness was the next most important. On the other end of the spectrum, consistently least important of the 11 values were environmental impact, animal welfare, origin, and convenience. However, notable differences were present across respondents. Most noteworthy, there is an important distinction between consumers who rank price as a very high priority – suggesting a price sensitive consumer – and those who rank health, hormone/antibiotic free, animal welfare, and taste highly. The alignment into a price sensitive group was not related to respondent gender, age, income, and family size, product consumption frequency, region of residence or shopping location.
It is important to recognize that relatively low-ranked food values among the 11 examined still have some level of importance to consumers. However, results also suggest some product attributes such as safety and freshness offer considerable appeal to most consumers. In addition, segments of consumers are especially price sensitive whereas another important segment will respond positively to health, hormone/antibiotic free, animal welfare, and taste. Product positioning variability will appeal differentially to subsets of consumers.
Lister, G, GT Tonsor, M Brix, TC Schroeder, and C Yang. (2017) “Food values applied to livestock products.” Journal of Food Products Marketing 23,3 Link
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