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Consumer’s Perception of

Food Quality and its Relation


to the Choice of Food
Master thesis
Master of Science in Marketing

DEPARTMENT OF MARKETING AND STATISTICS


HANDELSHØJSKOLEN
AARHUS UNIVERSITET

Author:
Rosica Lazarova
Supervisor:
Athanasios Krystallis

July 2010
ABSTRACT
Quality of food is an extremely important aspect of human life and people become more
and more concerned about nutrition, food safety and environmental issues that determine
their acceptance of food products. Therefore, the thesis examines the consumer’s perception
of food quality and its relation to the choice of food by reviewing existing research works
from the world academic literature. The thesis describes what quality is and then it gives a
more detailed description of perceived quality. The main models in the academic area of
food quality perception are explored and relevant empirical researches are given as
examples in order to connect theory with reality. Special attention is given to the Total Food
Quality Model, since it is considered so far the only one in the academic literature that
gives exhaustive dissection of the consumer’s quality perception processes. The researches
discussed are chosen according to the elements of the TFQ model and thus, they describe
the constructive parts of the model and its applicability to reflect the perception processes
of consumer’s food quality judgments. The thesis focuses on physical characteristics of the
food products, as well as abstract (intangible) food characteristics combined in four food
quality dimensions – health, taste, process and convenience, to examine their effects on
quality evaluation and purchase. Accordingly, the discussed research works are structured
around these four quality dimensions giving a more elaborated analysis of the judgmental
processes. The work concludes with recommendations for further research on the factors,
namely cultural, social, demographical, and consumer segmentation that appear to have
constant influence on the consumer’s food quality perception processes.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................1
Problem Statement & Research Questions.........................................................................2
Methodology & Delimitation..............................................................................................2
PRODUCT QUALITY...........................................................................................................3
Approaches to product quality............................................................................................4
Perceived quality.................................................................................................................5
Types of food quality..........................................................................................................6
Approaches to analysing perceived quality........................................................................7
Economics of information approach...............................................................................7
Multi-attribute approach.................................................................................................7
Hierarchical approach.....................................................................................................8
Integrative approach........................................................................................................9
MODELS OF THE QUALITY PERCEPTION PROCESS...................................................9
Shapiro’s model...................................................................................................................9
Olson’s model (1972)........................................................................................................10
Empirical research on Olson’s model related to food...................................................12
Critics on the Olson’s model.........................................................................................12
Wimmer’s model (1975)...................................................................................................13
Empirical research and critics on Wimmer’s model.....................................................14
Kupsch et al.’s model (1978)............................................................................................14
Empirical research and critics on Kupsch et al.’s model..............................................15
Steenkamp’s model (1990)...............................................................................................15
Personal factors.............................................................................................................17
Situational factors.........................................................................................................18
Empirical research on Steenkamps’s model..................................................................20
Andersen’s model (1994)..................................................................................................22
Empirical research on Andersen’s model......................................................................24
Steenkamp and van Trijp’s model (1996).........................................................................24
Empirical research and critics on Steenkamp and Trijp’s model (1996)......................25
Poulsen et al.’s model (1996)............................................................................................26
Empirical research and critics on Poulsen et al.’s model..............................................27
Grunert’s model (1996).....................................................................................................27
Heuvel et al. ’s model (2007)............................................................................................29
Empirical research on Heuvel et al.’s model.................................................................30
QUALITY DIMENSIONS AND CONSUMER SEGMENTS.............................................31
Quality dimensions...........................................................................................................31
Consumer segments..........................................................................................................33
Uninvolved food consumer...........................................................................................33
Careless food consumer................................................................................................34
Rational food consumer................................................................................................34
Conservative food consumer.........................................................................................34
Adventurous food consumer.........................................................................................35
EMPIRICAL STUDIES RELATED TO TFQ MODEL.......................................................35
Hedonic dimension...........................................................................................................35
Health dimension..............................................................................................................44

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Functional food.............................................................................................................48
Genetically modified food............................................................................................53
Process dimension.............................................................................................................58
Convenience dimension....................................................................................................63
DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS....................................................................68
REFERENCES......................................................................................................................73

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INTRODUCTION
Recently European food consumers have become very demanding about quality and
show willingness to pay more for better quality products (Steenkamp, 1989). In this
connection, better quality has become one of the most important strategic priorities facing
the food industry. The buyer’s markets nowadays require that companies improve product
quality from the consumer`s perspective. That is, in these highly competitive markets,
companies must become market-oriented and make the focus on the consumer as part of
their strategy. So to say, the companies have to translate consumer demands regarding food
quality into physical product parameters that will actualize the desired quality in the best
way.
From the consumer`s point of view, quality is all that the consumer wants to get out of
the product and the perceived quality, when traded off against price and other costs, will be
a major determinant of food choice. Consumers’ perception of quality is considered a
pivotal determinant of product choice (Zeithaml, 1988). Perceived quality is the consumer’s
judgment about a product’s overall excellence or superiority. Perceived product quality is a
global assessment ranging from “bad” to “good”, characterized by a high abstraction level
and refers to a specific consumption setting.
Quality of food is an extremely important aspect of human life and people become more
and more concerned about nutrition, food safety and environmental issues that determine
their acceptance of food products. Good quality of food has not a constant definition but
varies according to the food category and to the consumers’ preferences. Food quality can
be described by but not limited to wholesomeness, freshness, nutritional value, texture,
smell, color, fragrance, and flavor. In addition to the intrinsic characteristics of the product,
food quality can be evaluated by the brand, shopping environment, price, origin, production
processes and so on.
In the academic literature, there have been proposed several models (discussed later in
the current thesis) that attempt to describe consumers’ quality perception processes by a
particular mixture of quality cues. Each one elaborates on the previous ones by adding an
additional quality cue, which contributes to the better understanding of consumer’s quality
evaluations. There has been proposed, however, only one model, which specifically focuses
on quality perception of food. This is the Total Food Quality Model proposed by Grunert et

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al., (1995). It is essentially the only one in use in the food area and will hereby receive
more exhaustive discussion.

Problem Statement & Research Questions


The purpose of the current thesis is to give an overview of the existing research works
on consumers’ food quality perception and food choice from the world academic
literature and outline existing relationships between the two constructs. It will provide an
understanding of how consumers perceive food quality and why they choose the food they
do. It will specifically describe the already developed models of perceived quality
processes and discuss their applicability and adequacy in reflecting the way consumers
perceive food quality and consequently making food choices.
More specifically, the overall objective will be achieved by addressing the following
research questions.
 How do consumers perceive quality? What constitutes quality? How can quality
perception be explained?
 To what extent physical characteristics of the product will affect the quality
evaluation and the purchase?
 To what extent other characteristics like brand, origin, price, will affect the
consumers’ quality evaluation and purchase?
 Is there a trade-off between perceived quality and price and what is it?
 Do quality expectations correspond to quality experiences?
 What roles play demographics and cultural characteristics of consumers in the
perception of quality? Can we generalize research results?

Methodology & Delimitation


Overall, the methodological approach of this thesis intends to elaborate on theory and
adduce accordingly corresponding empirical research. The elaboration of theory part will
examine frameworks and models relevant to the topic, which will mainly highlight
literature on quality perception and will thus set the underlying structure of this thesis.
Furthermore, previous studies in the field of food quality perception with a reference to the
Total Food Quality Model will be investigated and analyzed. The findings will provide

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comprehensive knowledge on the existing studies exploring consumers’ evaluation
processes of food quality and will direct the academic community in adapting the known
models, developing new frameworks and thus making the analysis of food quality
perception more complete.
The thesis will start by presenting the concept of product quality and quality perception,
followed by descriptions of the quality perceptions’ models. Then, the work will give a
more detailed focus on the Total Food Quality Model presenting relevant empirical data,
which will describe the various elements of the model according to four major quality
dimensions – health, taste, process, and convenience.

PRODUCT QUALITY
Product quality has become a main topic of discussion in Europe and the United States.
This is so because quality serves as an important criterion for consumers when purchasing
food products and it builds customer value and satisfaction (Steenkamp, 1989). As a
consequence of customer value and satisfaction, quality contributes to market share and
return on investment. Therefore, companies are making adjustments in product designs,
manufacturing processes, and marketing strategies to improve product quality. Thus, in the
long run the most important single factor affecting a business unit’s performance is the
quality of its products and services, relative to those of competitors (Buzzel & Gale, 1987).
Quality has been defined in many different ways and every single definition contributes
to better understanding of the concept, though researchers has not come up yet with a
universal concept definition. Quality has been variously defined as value (Abbott, 1955),
conformance to specifications (Levitt, 1972), conformance to requirements (Crosby, 1979),
fitness for use (Juran, 1988), loss avoidance (Ross, 1989) and meeting and/or exceeding
customers’ expectations (Grönroos, 1983). The fact that there are so many definitions of
quality roots in the diversity of perspectives from which quality has been analysed
(Steenkamp, 1990). “Quality is a jewel with many facets, and it is important when using the
term, to define, explicitly, or implicitly, with which facet one is concerned” (Cowan, 1964,
p.7). Based on prior literature, Reeves and Bednar (1994) provide a framework for
explaining the concept of quality consisting of four different aspects, which will be just

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shortly outlined here: quality as excellence, quality as value, quality as conformance to
specifications and quality as meeting and/or exceeding customers’ expectations.

Approaches to product quality


According to Steenkamp (1989) four major approaches to explaining the concept of
quality are identified: (1) the metaphysical approach of philosophy, (2) the production
management approach, (3) the economic approach, and (4) the behavioral or perceived
quality approach of marketing and consumer behavior.
The first approach focuses on the being of quality. The production management
approach look into standardized manufacturing procedures, quality control, and quality
costs. The economic approach examine the quality from an economic point of view, such as
quality competition, market equilibrium within a situation of product quality variations, and
consumer behavior towards products with objective quality variations both when the
consumer is perfectly informed and with incomplete knowledge. The behavioral or
perceived quality approach gives attention to the quality perception process; that is, how
consumers make judgements regarding the quality of a product when they are imperfectly
informed. In addition, this approach takes into account the influence of personal and
situational variables on the quality perception process.
Overall, each of the four approaches is important because each of them explains
different aspects of quality; although independently developed from each other, they are
interrelated. Figure 1 shows that the perceived quality approach can serve as input to the
production management approach. The production management approach maintains that
the product specifications should be based on the needs of the consumer. The relationship
between these two approaches - the perceived quality and the production management
approach, is influenced by the economic approach, because quality relates also to costs and
to the level of profits of the firm. At the same time, the economic approach could learn a lot
from the other two approaches, in developing better theories on the behaviour of the firm.
The metaphysical approach is rather abstract, but “provides a bedding in which the other
approaches are situated” (Steenkamp, 1989). This approach contributes to the perceived
quality approach by drawing attention to the immaterial face of the product.

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Figure 1. Relationships between the four approaches to product quality

Source: Steenkamp (1989)

Studying the quality from the point of view of the consumer is imperative, since it is the
consumer, who decides which product to buy. This necessity is underlined by the ‘quality
perception gap’ (Morgan, 1985) that exists between manufacturers and consumers. Trijp
and Steenkamp (1996) considered the possibility to bridge this ‘quality perception gap’ by
proposing a quality guidance approach, which relates perceived quality judgements to
physical product characteristics. The approach consists of three steps (1) identification of
quality judgments, (2) disentanglement of the quality judgments into perceptions on
intrinsic quality cues and quality attributes, and (3) translation of the consumer perceptions
into physical product characteristics. The goal of quality guidance is the formulation of
technical product specifications that are related to consumer’s quality perception.
Researchers in the ‘perceived quality’ (Garvin, 1984) approach use the term perceived
quality instead of just quality to underline the fact that it is the consumer’ perceptions,
needs, and goals that play important role in the quality judgements. In this thesis, the terms
(perceived) food quality and (perceived) quality are used interchangeably.

Perceived quality
There are many definitions of perceived quality, though some of them lack theoretical
rationale for the definition and cannot be used as a foundation of a theoretical model of a

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quality perception model. Some of the definitions are: “the degree to which a product
fulfills its function, given the needs of the consumer” Box (1983, p.25), “the consumer’s
judgement about the superiority or excellence of a product” Zeithaml (1988, p. 5) and “the
rated ability of the brand to perform its functions as perceived by consumers” Kotler (1984,
p.479). But the best known definition of perceived quality is “fitness for use”. Specifically,
Steenkamp and Meulenberg (1986) found that perceived food quality is associated with
keepability, wholesomeness, appearance, well-known brands, taste, price, and nutritional
value. As already mentioned, the definitions of (food) quality perception include the
consumer, since it is the consumer who makes the judgements of the (food) quality.

Types of food quality


There are four different types of food quality (Grunert et al., 1996). These are product-
oriented quality, process-oriented quality, quality control, and user-oriented quality.
Product-oriented quality is measured by means of food product’s physical properties, like
fat percentage, muscle size of meat, sell content in milk, etc. Process-oriented quality is
concerned with characteristics of the production process, which are not necessary mirrored
in physical characteristics of the product, like the fulfillment of ecological and ethical
production standards. Quality control refers to the extent to which product- and process-
oriented quality remains stable at pre-specified levels. Finally, user-oriented quality is the
subjective quality perception of a user.
The four types of quality are interrelated. Specifically, the user-oriented quality will be
affected by the other three types of qualities. In addition, the user-oriented quality is
influenced not only by the physical characteristics of the product, but also by its price, the
purchase situation, the type of the retail chain, etc.
Much of the discussion on quality in the food industry is concerned with product and
process-oriented quality and quality control, while the consumer evaluates and pays for
subjectively perceived quality. Since product- and process-oriented quality can be measured
at the product itself by physiological methods, it may also be called objective quality. The
user-oriented quality can be measured only at the user, and can differ for the same product
between users; thus, it may also be called subjective quality. Changes in the objective
quality will lead to a better competitive position of the food firm, only if these changes lead

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to cost reductions for the participants in the food chain or if the changes in objective quality
lead to changes in subjective quality (Grunert & Juhl, 1995).

Approaches to analysing perceived quality


There are a number of approaches used for analyzing user-oriented quality and some of
them are economics of information approach, multi-attribute approach, hierarchical
approach, and integrative approach.

Economics of information approach


In the discussion for subjective quality, economic theory on product quality is applied,
which makes a major distinction between search, experience and credence characteristics
(Darby & Karni, 1973; Nelson, 1974, 1970). Search characteristics are those that can be
ascertained in the search process prior to purchase, such as the size of eggs or the color of
meat. The experience quality dimension, e.g. taste, freshness of food, convenience, can be
ascertained after the purchase as the product is used. The third characteristic cannot be
ascertained in normal use. Such characteristics, as for example, whether vegetables were
ecologically produced, or meat was produced using an animal friendly process, are not
visible and cannot be validated by the consumer even after trying the product (Andersen,
1994). Health is a typical credence quality attribute, since there is no direct relation
between consumption and effect. Thus, credence characteristics are based on credibility and
trust. In conclusion, this approach does not provide a model for the quality perception
process.

Multi-attribute approach
The multi-attribute approach considers quality as a multi-dimensional evaluation, such
as the overall quality is described by a set of cues that are perceived by the buyer. A cue is
defined as any informational stimulus about or relating to the product (Olson, 1972). A cue
is a very broad concept, encompassing such various product-related aspects as price, brand
name, color, and so on. The used cues are weighted so as to form the quality evaluation of
the product. Consumers use quality cues, because food quality aspects cannot be sensory
evaluated at the point of purchase (like taste, vitamin content, etc.). Quality cues are
characterized as intrinsic and extrinsic cues (Olson & Jacoby, 1972). Intrinsic quality cues

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are part of and specific to the physical product – they cannot be changed without changing
the essense of the product itself. The relevance of this type of cue for foods, particularly
fresh food, is easily recognized. The appearance of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and fish of
the expected perceived quality. Depending on the particular food, shape, color, structure
and size may serve as quality indicators as well.
Extrinsic quality cues, on the other hand, are everything else that is related to the
product or its production process. These are also called ‘image variables’ such as brand
name, price, peer support and origin (Erickson, Johansson, & Chao, 1984). Extrinsic
attributes are not product-specific and serves as a general signal for quality across different
products. Price, brand name, and level of advertising are frequently associated with quality
in research, although there are many other extrinsic cues useful for the consumer.
Consumers prefer intrinsic attributes over extrinsic attributes in the formation of perceived
quality judgements, and use the latter only if they do not feel competent to evaluate a
product on its intrinsic attributes (Grunert, 1986; Steenkamp, 1989).
Multi-attribute approach is the most often used approach to analysing quality
judgements in consumer behavior but it also provokes a lot of critics (Grunert, 1989). One
is that the importance of the attributes is assumed to be constant, although it may be
dependent on purchase situations – as for example, the weighting of taste and convenience
in a food product may be different for weekday and weekend use. Another critique is that
the interrelationship of attributes is not taken into account – that is, all of the attributes are
treated at the same level. For example, consumers may infer taste from price or healthiness
from fat content.

Hierarchical approach
The two critics mentioned in the end of the previous subsection are considered in the
hierarchical approach. It describes that consumers infer some attribute from other atributes.
The most widely used model in this approach is the means-end chain model (Gutman,
1982). This model implies that consumers’ subjective product perception is established by
associations between product attributes and more abstract, more central cognitive
categories such as values, which can motivate behavior and create interest for product
attributes (Brunsø et al., 2002). A product attribute is not relevant in and by itself, but only

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to the extent that the consumer expects the attribute to lead to one or more desirable or
undesirable consequences.
Means-end chains are the links, which a consumer establishes between product
perceptions and abstract motives or values. For example, a consumer will inspect the colour
of a piece of meat (a product characteristic) because s/he believes it to be related to the taste
of the meat when prepared (expected quality), and the taste will lead to enjoyment while
eating (abstract purchase motive).

Integrative approach
Finally, the integrative approach to analyzing user-oriented quality look at the
determinants of experienced as opposed to expected quality and the technical product
specifications, which will determine both the intrinsic quality cues the consumer can
perceive and the quality finally experienced. Another focus is on the sensory characteristics
of the product, such as taste, color, smell, which are regarded as an important mediator
between technical product specifications, meal preparation and experienced quality.
Further, the consumer`s expected quality evaluation will determine the consumer’s
intention to buy only in relation to the perceived costs associated with the product, where
costs can be both monetary and other costs. Finally, the focus is turned to consumer’s
purchase motives, which are included in the Total Food Quality Model (TFQ model)
discussed later in the thesis.

MODELS OF THE QUALITY PERCEPTION PROCESS

Shapiro’s model
Shapiro (1970) developed a model (Figure 2) that was the first one to classify the basic
variables involved in the perception of quality and stipulate the relationships among these
variables. This model puts also light on the role of the perceived quality in consumer
choices. The major variable in the model is the ‘Likelihood of purchase’. The main trade
off for consumers to arrive at ‘likelihood of purchase’ is between ‘price attitude’ and
‘perceived quality’. Perception of quality is dependent on ‘tangible, visible attributes’ and
‘price’. For example, if quality differences are perceived to be small (large) among
products, price has no (a significant) effect on perceived quality.

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According to Steenkamp (1989), this model’s tangible, visible attributes are similar to
Olson’s (1972) intrinsic quality cues, discussed in the very next model. Shapiro’s model is
not conceptually and operationally useful and according to Steenkamp it was not used in
other studies.
Figure 2. Shapiro’s model of the variables involved in quality perception and product
purchase

Source: Steenkamp (1989)

Olson’s model (1972)


Olson (1972) proposed the quality perception process to consist of two stages in which
the consumer chooses some cues as indicators of product quality from a set of cues, and
then combines their evaluations into one overall judgement of product quality. Olson
developed a model, which specified the determinant factors involved in quality cue choice
and cue impact on the overall quality judgment. This model tries to give an explanation to
the way cues are selected and their importance in the quality perception process. The author
suggests that the consumer will select this cue, which has the highest quality information
content, given the consumer’s limitations of information-processing capacity and time. The
crucial question is how does consumers determine the information value of a cue? The

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author describes that the consumer determines the information value of a cue through its
predictive value (PV), confidence value, (CV) and the intrinsic-extrinsic dimension (I-E).
The PV of a cue is “the extent to which the consumer perceives or believes that the cue
is related to or is indicative of product quality” (Olson 1972, p.67). This implies that cue
PV is assumed to be founded on the consumer’s perception about the degree of association
between cue and product quality. The CV, on the other hand, is defined as “the degree to
which a consumer is confident in his ability to accurately perceive and judge the cue”
(Olson 1972, p.69). Depending on previous experiences and beliefs related to the different
cues, PV and CV of cues may differ between consumers. Both PV and CV are hypothesized
to exert a positive influence on the probability of cue usage, and on the magnitude of cue
effects on quality judgements. Thus, the higher the PV or the CV of a cue, the more
essential is that cue to the consumer in the quality evaluation process.
PV and CV are independent dimensions of information value and all possible
combinations between the two are possible. It is suggested, however, that the cue that will
be used by consumers and have a strong effect on quality judgements, has both high PV and
high CV.
The I-E dimension consists of the already described concepts of intrinsic cues “which
cannot be changed or experimentally manipulated without also changing the physical
characteristics of the product itself” (Olson and Jacoby, p.169), and extrinsic cues, which
are related to the product but are not part of the physical product. The concept of the
intrinsic cue values is very similar to the Shapiro’s one - ‘tangible, visible attributes’. Thus,
the relationship to the physical product determines whether a cue is intrinsic or extrinsic. If
the physical product changes when the cue is manipulated, the cue is intrinsic. If the
physical product does not change, the cue is extrinsic.
The intrinsic-extrinsic dimension has no direct effect on the process of cue utilization.
Olson and Jacoby (1972) hypothesized that intrinsic cues are used more often and have a
greater effect upon quality perception than do extrinsic cues, given that both intrinsic and
extrinsic cue are available to the consumer – a hypothesis shared later by Grunert (1986)
and Steenkamp (1989).

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PV and CV of the intrinsic cues determine the use of the extrinsic cues. The researcher
proposed that extrinsic cues will be used when the available intrinsic cues have low CV,
low PV, or both. The interaction of the PV and CV can be seen on Figure 3.

Figure 3. Interaction between cue PV and cue CV as hypothesized by Olson

Source: Olson (1972)

Empirical research on Olson’s model related to food


Olson’s model has not attracted considerable interest in relation to food products. Rudell
(1979) has used the concepts PV and CV to predict cue usage by consumers. She
investigated the relationship between a subject’s usage of a certain source of nutritional
information and the PV and CV of that specific source of information. She found no
significant effect of either PV and CV on the usage of any of the four sources of
information.

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Critics on the Olson’s model
First, it is important to underline that the model is useful if cues do not interact in the
quality perception processs. Interactions between cues imply that the magnitude of the
effect of a cue on perceived quality depends on the level of one or more other cues. Such a
result, however, cannot be explained by cue PV and CV, which are assumed to be
independent of the specific cue levels. Second, consumer might have difficulties in
distinguishing between cue PV and CV. For example, Rudell (1979) found that of ten types
of information concerning food products, ingredients rated higher on PV and CV than did
price, advertising claims, brand name, and friends’ opinions. This, however, contradicts
Olson’s assumptions of CV and PV independence, given the low level of nutritional
knowledge in the USA (Jacoby et. al., 1977). This suggests that PV and CV cues are not as
independent as Olson assumed.
Further, quality attributes are not considered in the model (Steenkamp, 1989). It cannot
explain why a cue has a large PV with respect to perceived quality. In addition, the model
does not reflect the mediating role of the perceived risk, product experience, and socio-
economic characteristics in the formation of quality perceptions.

Wimmer’s model (1975)


In his model of the quality perception process presented from an information processing
perspective (Figure 4), Wimmer (1975) hypothesized that quality judgments are performed
cognitively by consumers by integrating the acquired and processed information with
information already stored in their memory. Information acquisition and processing
happens in interaction with motives and attitudes relevant to quality perception. Health-
conscious consumer, for example, will acquire all possible information about the nutritional
value of a food product and weight it in their quality perception process.

Figure 4. Wimmer’s model of the quality perception process

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Source: Steenkamp (1989)
According to the author, there are three sources of quality information: quality attributes,
intrinsic quality indicators, and extrinsic quality indicators. In contrast to Olson’s definition,
intrinsic quality indicators are not part of the product but are related to the product itself
(price, brand name). Extrinsic quality indicators are, for example, advertising, magazines,
and all external sources providing information about the quality of the product. Thus, what
Olson called ‘extrinsic’, Wimmer marks as ’intrinsic’ and vice versa.
In a very general formulation the model states that quality information is processed to
arrive at perceived quality judgements and this judgement is formed in interaction with
relative motives and attitudes.

Empirical research and critics on Wimmer’s model


The model has never been tested (Steenkamp, 1989) and its concepts are very general,
poorly defined, and the interrelationships among them are not identified.

Kupsch et al.’s model (1978)


Kupsch et al. (1978) (Figure 5) proposed a model, which combines elements of
information processing theory and multiatribute models. It states that the formation of
quality judgements starts with the recognition of a problem, which, on the other hand, leads
to search for information. Perceived quality risk is hypothesized to have a positive impact

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on the intensity of information search. The acquired information is stored in the memory of
the consumer. The consumer selects some parts of the information to develop evaluative
criteria, criteria weights and beliefs, which helps against information overload. Criteria
weights and beliefs form the ‘information structure’. The authors identify also intrinsic,
extrinsic, and unobservable criteria. The first two are directly observable by the consumer
and serve to provide product ratings for the unobservable criteria.
The development of evaluative criteria and criteria weights depends on the purpose, for
which the product is bought. These evaluative criteria and criteria weights are used in the
overall quality judgement. In the quality perception process, personal and situational factors
are taken into consideration.
This is the first model to include the perceived quality risk into the perceived quality
perception. In addition, this model considers personal and situational factors to have
influence on the formation of quality perceptions. A weakness of the model is its largeness
and generality in the concept formulation.

Figure 5. Kupsch et al. model of the quality perception process

Source: Kupsch et al., (1978)

Empirical research and critics on Kupsch et al.’s model


“An empirical test of the complete model appeared neither possible, nor was it our
purpose,” the authors stated. They explored the importance of extrinsic, intrinsic, and
unobservable criteria in purchasing a product, but the results proved not be very clear

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(Steenkamp, 1989). The model assumes to a large extent substantial cognitive activity and
involvement on the part of the consumer, who has to engage in extensive problem solving.
The main purpose for development of this model was to investigate the quality perception
process related to consumer durables.

Steenkamp’s model (1990)


Steenkamp (1990) extended the work of Olson (1972) by developing a more elaborated
model where a distinction is made between quality cues and quality attributes, in particular:
between extrinsic and intrinsic quality cues, and between experience and credence quality
attributes (Figure 6). Quality cues are defined as “informational stimuli that are, according
to the consumer, related to the quality of the product, and can be ascertained by the
consumer through the senses prior to consumption”. Quality cues closely resemble Nelson’s
(1970, 1974) search attributes. Quality attributes are the functional and psychosocial
benefits or consequences provided by the product (Steenkamp, 1990) or in other words the
cues used by consumers to infer experienced quality. They represent what the product is
perceived to be doing or providing for the consumer. Quality attributes are unobservable
prior to consumption. In other words, quality cues are what the consumer observes, and
quality attributes are what the consumer wants. This can also be conceptualized as means-
end chain. In means-end chain, the value of the means is determined by the value of the
ends to which they are perceived to lead. In the current case, quality cues are important
only to the extent that they are perceived to be means to achieve certain ends that are
valued by the consumer, that is, the benefits or quality attributes.
Cues can have different effects on different quality attributes. A cue need not affect the
perceptions on a single attribute only. It may contribute to several perceptions in different
ways. Further, a single cue is unlikely to be a perfect indicator of a particular quality
attribute. Multiple cues must be taken into account to form perception of the product on a
certain quality attribute.
Steenkamp used Olson’s model (1972) to hypothesize that the effect of a quality cue on
a quality attribute will be influenced by (1) the PV of the cue with respect to the attribute in
question, (2) the CV of that cue, (3) the I-E nature of the cue.
Finally, there are three ways to form perceptions about quality attributes and these are
descriptive, informational, and inferential belief formation. Descriptive beliefs are all those
16
beliefs that result from direct observation (via any of the senses) of the characteristics of the
product. Inferential beliefs, however, are formed on the basis of the quality cues for which
descriptive beliefs are formed. For example, the descriptive belief ‘this wine has been made
in France’ may lead to the inferential belief ‘this wine is of good quality’. The third way to
form perceptions about quality attributes is through informational beliefs, which are formed
by accepting information about the quality attributes provided by some outside source such
as friends, advertisements, and consumer magazines.

Figure 6. A conceptual model of the quality perception process

Source: Steenkamp (1990)

The quality perception process can be divided into three subprocesses: cue acquisition
and categorization, quality attribute belief formation and integration of quality attribute
beliefs. The subprocesses are influenced by personal and situational factors.

Personal factors
The most important personal variables affecting the quality perception process are (1)
involvement, (2) prior experience with the product, (3) level of education, (4) perceived-
quality risk, and (5) quality consciousness. Quality judgments might differ among

17
consumers; therefore, it is useful to distinguish among several important personal variables
that have an influence on the perceived quality.
Involvement with products affects the motivation to process information about the
product (Zaichkowsky, 1985). In this case, high-invloved consumers are assumed to use
more quality cues, to attach more importance to intrinsic quality cues than low-involvement
consumers. For example, involvement with food was related to a high pleasantness and
buying probability for a particular food (Kähkönen & Tuorila, 1999). Higher levels of food
involvement are associated with living with two or more friends, cooking for one’s self,
having regular meals, and being older (Marshall & Bell, 2004). The same researchers claim
that in relation to food involvement, more highly involved individuals tend to make
healthier food choices.
Prior experience is essential to the consumer’s ability to process information (Celsi &
Olson, 1988). People with more prior knowledge about a product will process quality-
related information at a more deeper, more abstract, and more elaborate level (Marks &
Olson, 1981). By the same token, knowledgeable consumer might be less extreme in their
overall quality judgements and tend to form quality judgements faster compared to non-
knowledgeable consumers.
Level of education plays also an important role in the information processing.
Individuals with less education are less competent in information processing (Capon &
Burke, 1980) and use less information in decision processes (Claxton, Fry, & Portis, 1974).
In this case, less educated consumers will use fewer cues in the quality perception process
and rely on cue information from personal sources rather than neutral sources of
information (Steenkamp & Meulenberg, 1985).
When quality risk is perceived, consumers use one or a few cues in the quality
judgements as those that experience high risk use fewer quality cues in the quality
perception process than consumer experiencing low risk (Steenkamp, 1989).
Quality consciousness is defined as “A mental predisposition to respond in a consistent
way to quality-related aspects, which is organized through learning and influences
behavior” Steenkamp (1990: p.315). Quality consciousness is a motivational factor, posited
to lead to consistent responses with respect to quality-related aspects, meaning that an
individual exhibits approximately the same set of responses in different situations, and for

18
different products. However, quality consciousness is not regarded as a generalized
personality variable, but as a domain-specific concept. Quality consciousness is organized
through learning (Steenkamp, 1989). Learning is based on previous experience with the
product category, and on information acquired from commercial, neutral, and personal
sources. Further, quality consciousness influences the weight of perceived quality of the
product alternative. Findings show also that quality-conscious consumers attach more
importance to neutral sources of quality information than consumers who are less quality
conscious.

Situational factors
These can be defined as “all those factors particular to time and place of observation,
which do not follow from a knowledge of personal (intra-individual) and stimulus (choice
alternative) attributes and which have a demonstrable and systematic effect on current
behavior” (Steenkamp, 1989). They might influence the formation of quality judgements
through the influence that they will have on cue choice and cue importance, and on the
importance and evaluation of the quality attributes.
The most important situational variables are (1) the usage goal for which the product is
purchased, (2) physical surroundings, (3) social surroundings, and (4) time pressure.
The perceived quality of a product depends on the degree to which it fulfills the
consumer’s usage goals. When the later are incorporated in the theory of perceived quality,
this enables researchers to compare quality intersubjectively according to the degree to
which the product fullfills its usage goals for different consumers.
Usage goals determine the usage of quality cues and the relevance of the quality
attributes in the overall quality judgements (Steenkamp, 1990). For example, when a
product is purchased as a gift, cues like packaging and brand name, and an attribute like
exclusiveness might be relatively important in the quality perception process, while for the
same product, intrinsic cues and reliability may be more important when the product is
purchased for personal use.
The physical surroundings in which the quality perceptions are formed can affect these
perceptions. For example, in the butcher shop, there is special lighting on the cooled
displays to make the meat look better. Thus, the physical surroundings affect the total
image of the store.
19
The social surroundings affect the consumer in the purchase situation, when s/he knows
that the consumptions situation will involve other people. For example, parents will always
consider the nutritional quality of the food they will buy for their children.
The time pressure variable is conceived in such a way that the consumer’s quality
perception process will be affected by the time that an individual has available for making
quality judgements in three specific ways (Steenkamp, 1989). First, in order to make the
evaluation process more easy, consumers weight negative information more heavily when
they are under time pressure than when they are under more relaxed conditions. Second,
persons in time pressure use fewer quality cues. Third, consumers tend to categorize quality
cues into acceptable and unacceptable when they are under time pressure.
After the description of the personal and situational factors affecting each of the
subprocesses, it is time to give a description of the model. The first step in the quality
perception framework refers to the cue acquisition and categorization, a process by which
the consumer selects cues on the basis of which further quality attribute beliefs are formed.
A consumer chooses cues according to their importance and the importance of a cue is
affected by the personal and situational variables (Steenkamp, 1990), the strength of the
perceived relationship with quality attributes (Cox, 1967), the ability of the consumer to
comprehend the cue (Olson, 1972), cue salience and vividness (Taylor & Thompson, 1982),
cue availability (Peter & Olson, 1987), and and cue intensity (Aaker & Myers, 1987). The
second step of the quality perception process includes the formation of experience and
credence quality attribute beliefs. The author claims that experience attributes are weighted
more heavily in the formation of perceived quality judgements than are credence attributes.
The overall quality evaluation is further hypothesized to be based upon the perceptions of
the products with regard to quality attributes.
In summary, the distinction between quality cues and quality attributes enables
researchers to clarify the effect that cues have on perceived quality in terms of the quality
attributes and helps them develop new products and marketing strategies.

Empirical research on Steenkamps’s model


Steenkamp tested his model by conducting a study that involved two meat products,
saveloy (a seasoned dry sausage) and gammon (Steenkamp, 1989). For each meat product
two usage goals were specified. For saveloy the usage goals were ‘use on sandwiches’ and
20
‘use as snack’, for gammon they were ‘use on sandwiches’ and ‘use at dinner’. The
following twelve quality attribute statements were developed:

- Taste
- Tender
- Juicy Sensory perception dimension
- Natural
- Fresh
- Fat
- Coloring agents
- Unwholesome Perceived healthiness dimension
- Salt
- Bad for the figure
- Keepable
- Preservatives Keepability dimension

Sensory perception and keepabilty can be considered as experience dimensions since


they can be ascertained upon consumption. The (un)wholesomeness of the food cannot be
ascertained upon consumption, because health-related consequences are only revealed (if at
all) after a long period of consumption. So, the dimension unwholesomeness is a credence
dimension.
Color and texture were the most important intrinsic cues for saveloy. Pink saveloy of
fine texture was considered to be of especially high quality. Price and packaging were also
of some importance. The cue levels unpackaged and higher prices contributed to quality
image. The main effect of place of purchase suggested that the butcher’s shop was
evaluated more positively than the supermarket. This was, however, valid only when the
price was low. The effect of keepability on perceived quality was not significant. It was
found that the quality attributes act as mediating or in other words, intervening variables
between quality cues and perceived quality.

21
Sensory perception was positively related, and unwholesomeness was negatively related
to perceived quality. Sensory perception was found to be the most important quality
attribute. For example, color was primarily valued because subjects thought that it said
something about the sensory characteristics of the product. Color had also certain health
connotations.
The results, in addition, indicate that the quality perception process did not differ much
between the two usage goals.
In another study, Steenkamp (1989) found that price had a significant effect on
perceived quality and on perceived sacrifice. Price was more strongly related to perceived
sacrifice than to perceived quality. The results emphasize the classic economic role of price
as a cost factor.
In conclusion, the distinction between quality cues and quality attributes enables
researchers to explain cue effects of perceived quality in terms of the mediating role of the
quality attributes, and assist them in product development and the formulation of a
marketing strategy. The model can be used to investigate which quality cues predict which
benefits or attributes to consumers. Advertising could concentrate on those cues on which
the brand rates favorably and that predict important quality attributes.
Research on the relative importance of perceived quality compared to price in consumer
decision-making indicates that quality is considerably more important than price. Thus,
perceived quality plays an important role in consumer behavior. The model also draws
attention on consumer segmentation, since consumer characteristics affect the quality
perception process.
Credence attribute perceptions are more uncertain than experience attribute perceptions.
People have relatively much difficulty in inferring credence attribute perceptions. This
means that consumers have difficulties in creating complete quality judgments.
Quality consciousness was found to be the only variable with a significant effect on the
relative importance of perceived quality.

Andersen’s model (1994)


Andersen (1994) developed a model based on Steenkamp’s framework for quality
perception process, which focuses on the buyer’s process of quality detection (perception)
in a specific buying situation (Figure 7). According to the author, the buyer chooses from a
22
set of available cues with regards to previous experiences, preferences and general
knowledge. In other words, consumers seek for experience and credence qualities in a food
product, just like the qualities that Steenkamp uses in his model. Then, the buyer decides
which of these quality and credibility indicators he wants to apply, and thus he forms
expectations about the level of the individual quality characteristics, which are aggregated
into an overall expected one-dimensional quality. Later expected quality and experienced
quality may be compared and adjustments regarding the future quality evaluations, will be
made.
Anderesen questions the predictability of the quality cue with respect to the quality
attribute. Redness, for instance, has a low predictive value when it comes to discerning
between the taste of different sorts of apples, but for the lack of a convenient alternative it
is still much used (Barzel, 1982). Thus, the consumer will infer the quality of the food
according to the available cues and previous experience.
Andersen also claims that buyers have difficulties in handling credence characteristics,
because credence characteristics are related only to extrinsic quality cues, while experience
characteristics are also supported by intrinsic quality cues. For him, experience
characteristics of food will tend to come out better than credence characteristics. This
means that in the experience-characteristics of food previous experience is a reliable source
of knowledge, whereas it is much less useful in the credence-characteristics case.

Figure 7. A general model of the buyer’s process of quality detection

23
Source: Andersen (1994)
The quality detection process ends with evaluations of experiences with the product in
the light of expectations. This may lead to reconsideration of prior experience,
competencies and preferences in the light of experiences gained from a particular purchase.

Empirical research on Andersen’s model


Andersen did not test his model, so the assumptions on the experience and credence
characteristics of food are not empirically validated.

Steenkamp and van Trijp’s model (1996)


The two authors fomulated the concept of ‘quality guidance’, which is an integrated
consumer-based quality improvement philosophy that relates perceived quality judgments
to physical product characteristics (Steenkamp & Trijp, 1996). They describe their model
(Figure 8) to consist of two phases. The abstraction phase describes the relationship
between the physical product characteristics and perceived intrinsic cues and quality
attributes. Due to imperfect information about the physical product characteristics and
limitations in the information processing capacity, the number of intrinsic cues and
attributes is likely to be small. Further, a single physical characteristic may contribute to

24
perceptions on several cues/attributes in different ways. For example, the coarseness of the
texture in salami may contribute positively to taste perceptions, but negatively to
perceptions of leanness. Moreover, multiple physical product characteristics must often be
combined to arrive at an intrinsic cue/attribute perception. For example, the perception
about the intrinsic cue ‘appearance’ of meat might be influenced by multiple physical
product characteristics such as color, amount of intramuscular fat and moisture. The
integration phase describes how intrinsic cue perceptions and quality attribute perceptions
are integrated into a judgement about quality expectation and quality performance,
respectively. They claim that quality expectations are important in inducing the consumer to
try out the product, while quality performance is of paramount importance in stimulating
repeat purchase behaviour. Quality experiences are formed on the basis of the product’s
perceived performance on quality attributes, i.e. the functional and psychosocial benefits
provided by the product. The two measures – expectation and experience, are indicators of
overall quality.

Figure 8. An integrated model linking physical product characteristics to perceived


quality judgements

25
Source: Trijp and Steenkamp (1996)

Empirical research and critics on Steenkamp and Trijp’s model (1996)


The researchers applied ‘quality guidance’ philosophy to the case of blade steak
(Steenkamp & Trijp, 1996). The main results of their study can be summarised as follows:
(1) Expected quality increases with perceived attractiveness of appearance and freshness,
and decreases with the amount of visible fat. For example, consumers’ evaluation of good
appearance of raw blade steak increases with darker redness of the blade steak and
decreases with the steak’s pH. (2) The presence of fat has a negative impact on quality
expectations and a positive impact on quality experience. (3) Quality performance increases
as tenderness becomes greater and decreases as the amount of non-meat components
increase. Flavour did not exert a significant effect. (4) There is no significant relationship
between quality expectation and quality performance. The ‘quality guidance’ model may be
extended to include the effects of extrinsic cues such as advertising and brand name, since
the model is concerned only with intrinsic cues. The ultimate goal should be to develop
consumer-based models for quality enhancement, integrating the effects of physical product
characteristics as well as other elements of the marketing mix.

Poulsen et al.’s model (1996)


Poulsen et al. (1996) elaborate on and extend the ’quality guidance’ model of Steenkamp
and van Trijp. Poulsen et al. (1996) contribute to their model by adding to the integration
part the so-called ‘quality formation’ process, which allows for better description of the
relative contributions of expectations and experience (Figure 9). Quality conceptualization
in this model is related to search and experience product characteristics. The quality
formation part of the model consists of three latent variables: expectation, experience, and
overall quality.

Figure 9. Quality guidance and quality formation

26
Source: Poulsen et al. (1996)

Empirical research and critics on Poulsen et al.’s model


The model was empirically tested with butter cookies. The authors found that experience
acts as an intervening variable between expectation and overall quality, which is in line
with the results of Steenkamp (1989), where quality attributes operate as intervening
variables between quality cues and perceived quality and quality attributes are observable
only through consumption, as indicated already before. They also found that consumers put
high importance to expectations in the quality formation process, which should indicate
food producers to stress more attention to the first-hand impression of the food products.
This model is useful for the food marketers because by knowing the structure of the quality

27
formation process and magnitudes of the entering effects enables them to design more
successful food products.
The model, however, is limited in focus only on the integration and the quality formation
process. Further, it is concerned with intrinsic cues only, and extrinsic cues like price,
promotion and distribution will give a more detailed picture on the way they influence the
quality formation process. The authors suggest also that a single, integrated model that
encompasses physical product properties, sensory characteristics, consumer perceptions,
and quality evaluations, be developed.

Grunert’s model (1996)


Grunert et al. (1996) have built further on the approaches of Steenkamp (1989) and
Andersen (1994) and developed the Total Food Quality (TFQ) Model, depicted in Figure
10. The TFQM elaborates on the integration phase by including aspects like meal
preparation and extrinsic cues, and also incorporates purchase intention, while the models
of Steenkamp and Andersen focus much attention to the abstraction phase. All the models
discussed up to now relate to physical product features and emphasize the sensory quality
of foods and other benefits verifiable by the consumer. The important credence attributes
such as safety, environmental quality, and health are recognized as important food choice
motivations by consumers yet have received far less attention in these models. Grunert et
al.’s (1996) model, however, includes such aspects as motives and values in the quality
perception process, so that consumer food choice is better understood.
The TFQ model can serve as an overall framework for the analysis of consumers’ food
quality perception and its relation to intention to buy and to the design of food products
(Grunert et al., 1996). It incorporates the explanation of intention to purchase, as a trade-off
between give and get components, and the explanation of consumer satisfaction, as the
discrepancy between expected and experienced quality (Brunsø et al., 2002). The model
makes a distinction between “before” (the expected quality) and “after” (the experienced
quality) purchase evaluations. Many food products has only search characteristics and the
consumer will develop expectations about the quality when she makes the choice. The
experienced quality, however, can be determined only after the consumption.
In the “before” purchase part of the model quality cues are formed on the base of the
available cues. From them, consumer try to evaluate expected quality. For example,
28
consumer use the color of meat to infer tenderness or the consistency of yohgurt to infer
taste. Of all the cues consumers are exposed to, only the perceived ones will influence the
expected quality. The cues consumers are exposed to and those they perceive, are affected
by the shopping situation, like the pressure of time when shopping, the available
information in the shop, planned or spontaneous purchases. In the process of expected
quality evaluation, the perceived costs will determine the consumer’s intention to buy the
product, as costs can be both monetary and other costs. The autors add that price can be
both a cost cue and extrinsic quality cue.
According to the model, the desired quality of food helps satisfy purchase motives and
values. That is, food products contribute to the achievement of desired consequences and
values. For example, the label on the product and the information that it provides may
create expectations about high eating quality, giving the consumer the feeling about
exclusiveness and luxury. Values will influence the search of quality dimensions and the
way different cues are perceived and evaluated.
The ‘after’ purchase part of the model describes the experienced quality. Sometimes
experienced quality deviates from the expected quality, particularly when the used quality
cues has low predictive value, as already described. The experienced quality is influenced
by many factors, as just few of them are the consumer’s mood, previous experience, the
preparation of the product, sensory characteristics of the product. It is also true that the
quality cues used to infer expected quality may also influence experienced quality (Grunert,
1997).

Figure 10. The Total Food Quality Model

29
Source: Grunert et al. (1996)

Heuvel et al. ’s model (2007)


This model is an extension of the Quality Guidance model and includes credence
attributes perceptions of consumers, encountered during their buying behaviour. The
extension of the model is concentrated in the integration phase of the model, where quality
expectations and quality experience are formed. Quality expectations represent the
purchase decision consumers face and are formed in the shop. The consumers can see, feel,
and smell the products and use these stimuli (cues) to assess the quality of the product.
Based on these observations, quality attribute perceptions can be asserted/inferred from
these ‘distal’ sensory cues (the concrete extension of the model). These processes are
integrated into the QGM to extend it also with credence attribute perceptions. Credence
attribute perceptions are inferred from intrinsic and extrinsic quality cues. The healthiness
of a tomato, for example, cannot be verified and is thus a credence attribute. What can be
verified before consumption are the search attributes or otherwise called the quality cues of
the tomato, like the size, color, and shape of the tomato. Consumers may infer healthiness
perceptions from the color, shape, and size of the tomato.

30
Empirical research on Heuvel et al.’s model
The authors tested their model collecting consumer data among a sample of Dutch
consumers who hold main responsibility for the food purchases in the household and eat
tomatoes at least twice a month. The estimates of the structural parameters in the Extended
Quality Guidance Model are represented in Figure 11.

Figure 11. Extended Quality Guidance Model: *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001

Source: Heuvel et al., (2007)

The study confirms that consumers’ credence motivations, particularly those related to
health, environmental friendly production, safety, and naturalness are important
determinants of consumer quality perception in-store. Further, the effect of product features
on consumer preference is mediated by perceived consumer benefits.

31
Although credence attributes cannot be verified by the consumer in-store, the results
show that consumers do form perceptions about the healthiness of tomatoes from sheer
appearance and consumers form these perceptions consistently. This suggests that
consumers form attribute beliefs perceptions by means of inferential belief formation (e.g.
Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). Apparently, cues in the product lead to consistent appearances in
the eyes of consumers. These cues in turn, can be exploited in food marketing and quality
communication to optimize the product for consumers.
The researchers found that there is a need for better identifying the ‘objective’ product
features that matter in consumer evaluation of tomatoes. In the translation process from
consumer wishes to product characteristics there is a need to identify strong relations
between product features and consumer perceptions. They claim that sensory and
instrumental features have limited predictive validity for consumer perceptions both in-
store and upon consumption.
As it was empirically shown already by Steenkamp and Trijp (1996) the influence of the
quality expectation on the quality experience is very small.
In the paper, the focus regarding the formation of attribute perception beliefs was on the
inferential belief formation (Steenkamp, 1990). The informational belief formation is also
important and has to be addressed in the future.

QUALITY DIMENSIONS AND CONSUMER SEGMENTS


Up to now different frameworks have been described for the analysis of food quality
perception. In this part of the thesis, attention is focused on food quality dimensions and
consumer segments, which differ according to their food-related lifestyle. Later in the thesis
the perception of quality dimensions will be described through empirical works with
relation to the Total Food Quality Model.

Quality dimensions
According to Steenkamp, Wierenga, and Meulenberg (1986), four dimensions are
identified in their research covering thirteen food products. These are nutritional value
(correlations with attributes like protein content, vitamin content and nutritional value),
additives (correlation with preservatives, artificial flavour and colour additives), energy
(correlation with attributes like fat, protein and caloric content) and sensory (correlating
32
with smell, appearance and taste). The food products differ considerably with respect to the
importance attached to the four dimensions.
Grunert et al. (1996) identified other four quality dimensions, which more or less
coincide with those that were shortly described above. They are called taste and
appearance, health, convenience and process.
The important dimension of quality for consumers is related to the hedonic characteristic
of food, which is presented by taste, and appearance and smell. This hedonic characteristic
can only be ascertained after consumption and therefore, it is called experience
characteristic of food.
Health has become a very important food characteristic to consumers and they consider
it as important as taste. Consumers form preferences for this food characteristic motivated
by expectations for a longer, high-quality life (Roininen, Lähteenmäki, & Tuorila, 1999).
This characteristic of food quality is related to the way consumers perceive food to affect
their health. This dimension includes functional qualities of food, but also safety and risk-
related issues. The health quality of food is a credence characteristic, because consumers
cannot establish the consequences for his/her health right after consumption, so the
consumer needs to trust this characteristic.
Consumers consider convenience as an important experience quality dimension of food
but it means much more than just ease of purchase or quick consumption. According to Les
Gofton, consumers perceive the quality dimension convenience as such that saves time in
the overall meal process: planning and purchasing, storage and preparation of products,
consumption, and the cleaning up and disposal of leftovers (Gofton, 1995).
Finally, consumers are also interested in the way food is produced, that is the production
process dimension of quality. This characteristic covers organic production, production that
takes into account animal welfare, and production with no genetically modified organisms.
Those consumers that pay attention to the process dimension of food quality focus on the
naturalness of the food. Just like the health dimension, process dimension is a credence
characteristic, since the consumer has to trust various sources for the production-oriented
quality of food.
The all four dimensions of food quality are interrelated and sometimes overlapping but it
depends on the food product. For example, consumers sometimes consider taste and

33
healthiness of food to be positively corelated, in other times, they are negatively correlated.
Such kind of assumptions are typical of consumer quality perception and they will be
discussed later in the thesis.
Also, none of the four quality dimensions is a search dimension (except for the cases
when food can be tasted in the store before purchasing it). This means that consumers can
only establish the quality of a particular food product only after consumption, not before or
during purchase. Thus, purchase decisions are based on quality expectations. Quality
expectations are formed based on previous experience with the product or on familiarity
with the brand. Thus, quality expectations are inferred.
In summary, hedonic and convenience quality are experience dimensions, because the
consumer can experience the quality and use this experience in future purchases. Health
and process dimensions, on the other hand, are credence characteristics of quality and the
consumer cannot experince the quality. Therefore, the last two dimensions are a question of
credible communication. The effectiveness of communications depends on three factors:
the credibility of the source, the receiver’s motivation and ability to process the information
(Grunert, Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000). Credibility of the cources will be further
discussed in the development of the thesis.

Consumer segments
The importance of the four quality dimensions that were just described differ among
consumers. That is, the process of food quality perception and consequently, the choice of
food they make is individually defined. Although there are individual differences, people
can be segmented according to specific traits that explain the way people relate food to the
attainment of values. These traits, called food-related lifestyle (Grunert et al., 1996), are
non-product specific and can be summarized as purchasing motives, quality aspects,
shopping habits, cooking methods, and consumption situations.

Uninvolved food consumer


These consumers find life’s challenge in other areas than food. Their purchase motives
for food are weak, and the interest in food quality is only related to the convenience
dimension. They are uninterested in shopping, lack brand loyalty, and cannot perceive
differences among different food products. Their price interest is also low. They mostly eat

34
snacks, have little interest in cooking, and tend not to plan their meals. These consumers
are, on average, young, single, living in big cities, with low-level of income.

Careless food consumer


These consumers share some of the characteristics of the uninvolved consumers in that
they do not find food important and focus only on the convenience quality. However, they
are interested in new products, but as long as they do not require new cooking methods.
They are young, living in big cities, with more education and higher income in comparison
to the uninvolved consumer.

Rational food consumer


These are the consumers who are most open to better quality food products with
functional characteristics like, healthiness, naturalness, freshness. They look for a lot of
information when shopping, which makes them easy to inform about product
improvements. New products are not appreciated, so information about product
imporvements should be communicated. The major purchase motives for these consumers
are self-fulfilment, recognition and security. This segment is represented mostly by women
with families, who live in medium-sized cities. This segment is considered to consist of
highly critical consumers.

Conservative food consumer


The major purchase motive for these consumers are security and stabilty by following
traditional meal patterns. They are very interested in taste and health aspects of food, so the
convenience factor is not prioratized. This segment is difficult to win with new products or
different marketing initiatives, because they have concrete preferences for food and shops.
Consumers in this segment are least educated, living in rural areas and have generally low
income.

Adventurous food consumer


This segment is represented by consumers who use food and cooking for self-fulfilment,
expressing creativity and social purposes. They are not interested in convenience but insist
on good food quality and good taste. They are interested in exotic food products and like to

35
experiment in cooking. These consumers are young and members of large size family. They
have the highest education, high income and live in big cities.
***
In the section that follows, the food quality dimensions will be more broadly described
through a focus on studies that can be referred to the TFQ model, so that to reflect its
applicability in the description of the perceived food quality process.

EMPIRICAL STUDIES RELATED TO TFQ MODEL

Hedonic dimension
This dimension comprises both the sensory food quality dimension of Steenkamp,
Wierenga, and Meulenberg (1986) and the taste and appearance food dimension of Grunert
et al. (1996).
The philosophy of hedonism argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good and that the
main goal of the human existence is to maximize the pleasure. The hedonic quality
dimension of food include appearance, smell, and taste. Taste is one of the major criteria for
evaluating food products. Researchers claim that taste and pleasure are some of the most
important predictors of food choice (Roininen, Lähteenmäki, & Tuorila, 1999).
In order to make food choice the consumer has to have expectations about the hedonic
quality of a food product. This is so, because the hedonic quality is an experience aspect of
food and taste especially can only be ascertained after eating.
Expectations can be formed on the base of available cues or information at the time of
purchase (Olson & Jacoby, 1972). For example, price, packaging, purchasing surroundings
and others are all cues that help consumers form expectations of taste. Or expectations can
be based on previous experience with the product or if the product is branded and the brand
is known.
The following section will look at the formation of quality expectations in regard to the
hedonic dimension and how expectations are related to experience. The presented studies
look into how consumers use intrinsic and extrinsic quality cues in order to form expected
quality about a food product. One thing is clear in the food domain that quality dimensions
and applied quality cues are idiosyncratic to the product category investigated.

36
In order to make purchase decisions, consumers have to form quality expectations. They
infer quality through the use of cues. Expectations influence the hedonic evaluations of
stimuli by producing either contrast or assimilation (Zellner, Strickhouser, & Tornow,
2004). Contrast is the shift in hedonic ratings of the stimulus in the direction counter to the
expectation. Assimilation is the shift in hedonic ratings of the stimulus in the direction of
the expectation. Depending on a number of factors including the strength and certainty of
the participant’s expectations and the social pressures that are present in the experimental
setting, the participant will either experience contrast or assimilation when rating the
quality of food.
Researchers have concluded that consumers choose meat based on intrinsic experience
and search attributes like tenderness, leanness, juiciness, freshness, and the anticipated taste
and nutritional value, which are inferred from the visual appearance of a particular cut of
meat (Krystallis, Chryssochoidis, & Scholderer, 2007). The most important factors
contributing to the way consumers perceive quality at the point of purchase according to the
appearance of the meat are color, visible fat (Trijp & Steenkamp, 1996), and marbling
(Bredahl, Grunert, & Fertin, 1998). Appearance of the product, however, does not bias the
eating satisfaction. In particular, color and packaging does not affect taste experience
(Carpenter, Cornforth, & Whittier, 2001).
Visual intrinsic quality cues are of great importance to some consumers and they can
have a role similar to that of quality certification. When combined with the choice of
particular retail channels and the established personal relationship with the butcher, they
can assist in decreasing the risk in the purchasing decision (Krystallis, Chryssochoidis, &
Scholderer, 2007).
Perceived fat and the place of purchase (butcher or supermarket) are identified as crucial
quality cues, and particularly butcher is the preferred product characteristic for beef meat
(Grunert, 1997). Fat is generally regarded as a sign of poor quality. In the same time,
consumers indicate tenderness, taste and juiciness to be one of the important quality
dimensions when evaluating beef. A certain degree of marbling, however, contributes to
these quality characteristics. This indicates that consumers have considerable difficulty in
forming quality expectations in a way that is predictive of later quality experience. This
conclusion is also relevant to the studies conducted by Brunsø et al., (2005), Bredahl,

37
Grunert, and Fertin (1998), Baadsgaard et al. (1993), and Grunert, (2001). Fat does not
predict the quality aspects the consumer is interested in, although it is the major cue used to
infer quality of meat. When they expect good quality, bad quality will result, and vice versa.
Fattening-up has a significant effect on how respondents evaluate the appearance of the
meat. In general consumers’ evaluation of expected quality decreases with increasing
fattening up, mainly due to the stronger visual appearance of fat in the meat (Brunsø et al.,
2005).
Figure 12 illustrates how a sample of Danish consumers evaluated the quality of three
types of beef while looking at the raw meat (quality expectation), and after consumption
(quality experience) (Grunert, 2001). The three types of beef were from milk cows taken
out of production differing in that the animals were fattened 0, 2 or 4 months before
slaughtering. It can be clearly seen that the increased fat content in the meat, which is a
consequence of the additional fattening months, has a negative impact on consumers’
quality expectations when looking at the raw meat, but increases the quality experience
during consumption (Grunert, 2001). This means that the production system that includes
breed, slaughter weight, and fattening of the animals affect their meat characteristics.
Figure 12. Qualty perception of beef

Source: Grunert K., (2001)


Appearance as already implied, is poorly related to taste because their structural and
compositional origins are different (Dransfield, et al., 2005). In re-purchase, associations
with taste may dominate over appearance. In conclusion, consumers’ use of cues to infer

38
quality are quite misleading, which explains why consumers often experience a low degree
of correspondence between expected and experienced quality.
The smell of food has also an influence on the experienced quality of food. The
perceived smell can be influenced by other intrinsic quality cues, by aspects of the meal
preparation process or by certain technical product characteristics. In a study, pieces of pork
were obtained with three levels of Androstenone and Skatole – flavour components, which
are known to be related to the smell that a certain percentage of uncastrated male pigs is
known to emit during cooking (Grunert et al., 1996). The results are quite interesting. First,
the intrinsic quality cues available at the time of purchase, namely color and fat content, do
not have a significant influence on the experience quality after preparation, which adds an
interesting perspective to the results from the study on quality perceptions of beef, where it
was concluded that consumers dysfunctionally use fat content and color as major intrinsic
quality cues at the time of purchase. Secondly, the smell, both during and after preparation,
has an influence on experienced quality, but this influence is minor compared to the major
quality aspects taste and tenderness.
Freshness was found to be one of the main criteria for evaluating choice of food
products (Bernués, Olaizola, & Corcoran, 2003). Storage of meat is also a very important
attribute for consumers. This extrinsic characteristic is related to the freshness and hygiene
of meat and, therefore, is a major cue for expected and experience quality. Overall, this
study suggests that there are great differences in the appreciation of extrinsic attributes of
red meat between European regions. This result confirms the importance of cultural
differences in studying quality perceptions in meat, as suggested by Grunert (1997).
Grunert makes an important suggestion on studying the quality perception of food in
accordance to cultural characteristics, since different cultures show different patterns for
perceiving food quality. The author implies also that quality cues cross-refer to one another,
e.g. cut and color cues are used to infer fat content; fat and cut cues are used to infer costs.
Further, consumers in low involvement situations and under high degree of habitualization
may not form quality expectations (Krystallis, Arvanitoyannis, & Chryssohoidis, 2006).
Although involvement in the meat selection process is very high, for a specific part of the
sample meat purchasing tends to be a habitual process based on low search cost cues, such
as good relation with the butcher or repeated selection of particular parts of the animal.

39
A great importance is attached to buying meat from the butcher, which suggests that
consumers would rather trust an expert in the choice of meat than themselves, which
additionally increases the effect of uncertainty with regards to the formation of quality
expectations (Grunert K. G., 1997). Baadsgaard et al. (1993) has identified that the place of
purchase is a major extrinsic quality cue consumers use when evaluating the expected
quality of a piece of beef. An explanation for this relation is that buying meat at the
butcher’s can substitute for a quality assessment. Thus, consumers rely on extrinsic quality
cues in situations of uncertainty, such as consumers infer high quality meat products from
the extrinsic quality cue butcher. This conclusion supported also by Grunert (1997), is later
confirmed by Grebitus and Bruhn (2008) who investigate pork quality with the help of
concept mapping. This method enables the researcher to uncover relations between quality
characteristics. The results show that consumers prefer intrinsic quality cues to predict
experience (eating) quality attributes. In contrast to that, extrinsic quality cues are used to
predict credence quality attributes.
Food packaging plays also essential role in attracting consumer attention and generating
sensory and hedonic expectations, which can affect their product perception and purchase
decisions. Both colour and shape of food affect consumers willingness to purchase (WTP).
Results of the study conducted by Ares and Deliza (2010) show the relevance of package
characteristics (in the case of the study milk desserts), such as colour and shape, in creating
sensory expectations on consumers, which could affect their product perception and
acceptance. Package color affected expected flavour and expected texture of the desserts.
Besides, participants also associated certain package shapes and colours with specific
products, such as egg custard or low-calorie desserts. Thus, during product and package
development it would be important to study which sensory expectations packages are able
to create in consumer’s mind.
Sometimes, packaging of food (for example meat) are less important to consumers
(Bernués, Olaizola, & Corcoran, 2003). This attribute can be identified with convenience
values. The fact that consumers are used to buy unbranded and, frequently, unpackaged
meat, in contrast to other food products, can partially explain this phenomenon.
Nevertheless, this situation is changing rapidly and adequate packaging of meat could have
increasing importance for convenience-orientated consumers in the future.

40
The influence of perceived origin on perceived intrinsic quality cues and expected eating
quality is worth mentioning. For example, Portuguese consumers of quality labelled beef
perceive the region of production as a signal of enhanced quality, leading to better intrinsic
attributes such as colour and fat, and consequently to higher expected beef eating quality
(Banović, Grunert, Barreira, & Fontes, 2009). Country of origin has a significant impact on
the probability of choice of broiler meat (Pouta et al., 2010). Willingness-to-pay is
substantially reduced when a non-domestic product is offered. On the other hand, a well-
known label indicating local origin increased the superiority of the domestic origin. Origin,
however, is not a good indicator of safe and healthy/nutritious beef and lamb (Bernués,
Olaizola, & Corcoran, 2003).
Specifically, the region of origin of food products affects consumer valuation in two
different ways (Stefani, Romano, & Cavicchi, 2006). First, origin can act as a quality cue
hinting to other characteristics of the good. Secondly, origin can affect directly the value of
food due to its symbolic or affective role. In the case of spelt (Stefani, Romano, &
Cavicchi, 2006), the narrower and more precisely defined the area of origin the higher the
quality expectation of consumers supporting the role of origin as a quality cue.
As to the purchase motives the study of Baadsgaard et al., (1993) on beef in England,
France, Germany and Spain identified the following ones:
Tradition and security – beef can be used to cook traditional dishes, which contributes
towards a feeling of security
Variation in everyday life – beef is extremely versatile; this not only enables it to be used
in many different kind of dishes and on different occasions, but also to provide variation in
everyday life
Nice atmosphere and social life – suitable for family meals and guests
Health and nutrition – beef is regarded as being healthy and nutritious
Expected satisfaction – acceptable to family, children and guests
Demonstration of cooking abilities – beef is good for proving both to yourself and others
how good cook you are.
Demonstrating status – highly suitable for festive occasions and for impressing people.
Still another study (Prescott, Young, O’Neill, Yau, & Stevens, 2002) identified nine
factors thought to be important motives in food choice:

41
Health - contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, keeps people healthy, nutritious, high in
protein, good for skin/teeth/nails, etc., high in fibre and roughage
Mood – helps coping with stress, helps coping with life, helps relaxing, keeps
awaken/alert, cheers up, makes feel good
Convenience – easy to prepare, can be cooked very simply, takes no time to prepare, can
be bought in shops close to residence, easily available in shops
Sensory Appeal – smells and looks nice, has a pleasant texture, tastes well
Natural Content – no additives and artificial ingredients, contains natural ingredients
Price – cheap, not expensive, good value for money
Weight Control – low in calories, helps controlling weight, low in fat
Familiarity – means what people usually eat, familiar food is like the food people ate
when they were children
Ethical Concern – deals with the countries that the consumer politically approve;
country of origin is clearly marked; packaging is environmentally friendly
All of the abovementioned findings mean that consumers’ general perception of quality
has an impact on the extent to which they think the food will be able to fulfill all these
motives (Grunert et al.,1996, p.89).
***
After the purchase, when preparing and consuming the product, the consumer will have
a quality experience, which often will deviate from the expected quality. The relationship
between quality expectation and quality experience is commonly believed to determine
consumer satisfaction with the product and, hence, the probability of repeated purchases
(Oliver, 1993).
Product evaluation changes in the direction of expectations; that is, product experience is
influenced by the product expectations (Lange, Issanchou, & Combris, 2000). Expectations
formed from previous experience, or beliefs based on information about food’s taste or
other attributes, play a profound role in consumers’ responses to sensory properties of
foods. One model of the influence of expectations that has received empirical support, the
assimilation model, suggests that the assessment of foods during tasting is ‘brought into
line’ to match expectations. So when expectations are raised, the sensory acceptability of
foods can be increased. Recent research on food choice has focused on expectations as

42
determinants of preference and how they interact with, and modify, responses to the
sensory properties of foods. In this respect, it has been found that information about
nutritional qualities affects the acceptability of foods and that information on food
ingredients and use, taste, or nutritional qualities increases the willingness to try novel
foods. Using information that has been shown to impact on expectations and preferences
(e.g. on taste, nutrition, image) may also be a means to gain acceptance for the introduction
of novel flavours or foods to a culture (Prescott, 1998).
Many factors influence experienced quality. These are the product itself, the way the
product has been prepared and integrated into the meal preparation process, situational
factors like time of day and type of meal, the consumer’s mood, etc. Thus, the producer has
a little control over both expected and experienced quality, and consequently on consumer
satisfaction with the product, because they are affected by numerous other factors.
One of these factors is the brand. Banović et al., (2009) showed that extrinsic quality
cues do indeed influence perception of intrinsic quality cues, with brand as the predominant
quality cue. This finding is of great importance since the role of the brand in the perception
of intrinsic quality cues in the case of beef has not been shown before. The fact that
consumers use brand to perceive intrinsic quality cues, like colour and fat, indicates that
they rely on the brand as a major quality cue helping them to reduce uncertainty of
purchase due to the generally large biological variation in objective beef quality. Moreover,
it also indicates to consumers that a brand represents a superior quality indicator, which not
only provides consumers with additional information but also symbolizes certain beef
quality positioning. When observing the direct influence of various quality cues on
expected eating and health quality, brand appears to dominate the formation of expected
quality. The generally significant influence of brand on perceived quality may also be
partially explained by the fact that consumers has prior knowledge of the brand. Research
evidence supports a positive relationship between brand and expected beef quality where
brand is generally found to be a determinant of both expected eating and health quality
among low and high familiarity consumers.
The previous results have great similarities with the results of Bredahl (2003). The later
show that consumers’ expectancies about health quality to be derived from extrinsic cues,
while expected eating quality depended on the perception of a combination of intrinsic cues

43
and extrinsic cues. For both expected health quality and expected eating quality, brand was
the predominant cue. A significantly stronger brand effect occurred for consumers who are
less familiar with the product category, whereas high familiarity consumers rely relatively
more on intrinsic quality cues. This is consistent with the work of Rao & Monroe (1988),
where they suggest that more knowledgeable consumers use intrinsic cues rather than
extrinsic cues, and that prior knowledge facilitates the learning of new information.
It should be noted that the relationship between expected and experienced eating quality
is clearly higher for high-familiarity consumers, indicating that these are better at forming
quality expectations, which are actually predictive of their later quality experience. This is
in line with Zeithaml’s (1988) suggestion that consumers will use extrinsic cues when the
quality is perceived to be difficult to evaluate.
The brand, however, is an important extrinsic cue only when eating quality is
considered. Health quality is a credence characteristic of products and it cannot be
evaluated neither before not after the food consumption. Therefore, consumers who have
high degree of product experience cannot evaluate the health quality of a food product.
Depending on exposure, when people of different backgrounds see a given colored food
or drink item, it may induce different expectations regarding what they think the food or
drink item is going to taste like (Shankar et al., 2010). Shankar et al. (2009) report that
consumers rate sugar-coated chocolate candies (multicolored M&Ms that were identical in
taste) given a ‘dark-chocolate’ label as having a significantly more intense chocolate flavor
than identical candies that were given a ‘milk chocolate’ label. This means that expectations
generated by labeling or by giving the participant information about the stimulus before
sampling have produced assimilation of the kind mentioned above. Also, the used labels
should be carefully chosen in order to produce correct inferences for meeting the desired
benefits.
Further, use and effect of the label is different depending on the degree of product
involvement (Poulsen & Juhl, 1999). A study on quality perception of fresh fish segments
fish eaters according to how much they like serving fresh fish – “fish lovers” and
“traditional fish eaters”. Respondents were given two types of information that will affect
the quality perception process: first the odor and appearance of the fish (intrinsic cues),
which are assumed to be related to the age of the fish, and second the label (extrinsic cues),

44
which gives explicit information on age. For the traditional fish eaters, both their evaluation
of odor/appearance and the label affect the quality expectation, but their evaluation of
odor/appearance is not affected by the age of the fish. The fish lovers base their quality
expectations only on their evaluation of odor/appearance, which is related to the age of the
fish (the higher the age, the lower the quality evaluation). They do not use the label
information.
Generally, consumers perceive food quality as a two-dimensional construct, comprised
of eating and health dimensions (Banović et al., 2009). Experienced health quality is
explained better than experienced eating quality. Of course, quality perception of credence
qualities is always a matter of inferences, whereas quality perception of experience
qualities is a question of inferences that can be confirmed or rejected. Moreover,
experienced eating quality dominates consumers’ future food purchase intention. The strong
influence of this sensory aspect of experienced quality on future purchase intention may be
explained by the fact that those quality aspects more accessible to the senses have more
weight in the experience phase than those that are not, i.e. credence (e.g. health and
nutrition). Subsequently, that is why consumers related eating quality to health quality in
the experience phase.

Health dimension
In relation to TFQM, the discussion will continue with consumers’ evaluations of food
health quality dimension and of health aspects that affect the buying decision.
The perception of healthiness of food in general is influenced by a number of factors
such as type and processing of raw materials, origin, production date, conservation method,
packaging, use of additives, etc. (Bech-Larsen & Grunert, 2001).
The concept of health discussed in the thesis reflects the consumers’ point of view and
such aspects as nutrition plays an important role in the their health, although the
consumer’s perception of nutrition might be different from that of the nutritionist.
From the consumer’s point of view, health involves two dimensions: eating healthily and
avoiding unhealthy food (Brunsø, Fjord, & Grunert, 2002). Eating healthily is related to
healthy diet, functional foods, food with less amount of fat, and other factors related to
health and nutrition. Avoiding unhealthy food, on the other hand, concerns food safety.
Food safety raises a lot of discussion about diverse phenomena among which are
45
salmonella, pesticide residues in food, risk from using genetic modification production
methods and so on. It can also be said that food safety is the opposite of food risk.
Health dimension, as well as the process dimension discussed in the next section, are
credence characteristics of food products, since consumers cannot evaluate this quality
neither before the purchase, nor after the consumption of the food product. Providing
credible information, which consumers can understand is important for the success of the
food products (Grunert, Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000). The effectiveness of
communications depends on three factors: the credibility of the source, the receiver’s
motivation and ability to process the information. When the information concerns quality
dimensions which consumers are interested in, it can be assumed that to some extent they
are motivated to process the information, leaving ability and credibility as two other major
factors. Ability to process is an important factor in the communication of credence quality
dimensions. The marketing of functional foods is a good example of the importance of the
ability factor. Although consumers are motivated to process health-related claims, they will
not have the ability to understand the message of, for example, enrichment with omega-3
fatty acids, because they do not have the necessary nutritional knowledge. If a functional
food manufacturer wants to emphasize the use of an ingredient, the ingredient could be
declared using its scientific name but incorporating a health claim on the label, in order to
achieve an association in consumers’ mind between the ingredient and its health effect
(Ares, Giménez, & Gámbaro, 2009). When the information is presented in way that the
consumer will be able to process is, the degree of persuasion will be higher and
consequently the degree of perceived health-related quality will also be higher (Grunert,
Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000).
Extrinsic cues play an important role in health quality evaluation of food (Bernués,
Olaizola, & Corcoran, 2003). If labels, brands or other extrinsic cues verify the credence
quality of health, then it becomes a search quality attribute in the shop. This means that the
perception of the credibility of healthy food significantly enhances the intention to
purchase. Nevertheless, the credibility of the information source is one of the main factors
determining the perception of credence quality attributes and therefore, credible and
reliable attributes and labels are needed.

46
Health is related to basic life value and purchase motives. When judging food on this
dimension, consumers neither can see it, nor can they experience it, but they infer it from
more concrete intrinsic and extrinsic cues. For example, a study of consumers’ perceptions
of fish and motives for buying seafood carried in Denmark in 1996 (Brunsø, Fjord, &
Grunert, 2002), revealed that healthiness and physical well-being is one of the most
important reasons why these consumer buy fresh fish, along with enjoyment. According to
the particular consumers, the fact that fresh fish is an unprocessed product (a natural
product), contains vitamins and minerals, and is low in fat are all attributes which
contribute to wholesomeness and physical well-being. Thus, being healthy fulfills basic life
values, the most important of which are good health, long life, the family’s welfare, high
quality life, healthy body and physical well-being.
Thus, the way consumers evaluate healthiness of food products can be described by
naturalness, a low degree of processing, and low fat content. In other words, these are the
typical cues, which consumers use to infer healthiness. Also, the research shows that eating
healthily and health concept is subjective.
Beliefs about the healthiness of foods significantly affects eating: perceiving food as
healthy increases intake of that food (Provencher, Polivy, & Herman, 2009). Consumers
regard it as normal to have a higher intake of healthy than of unhealthy foods. Furthermore,
believing that food (in the particular study – cookies) are healthy significantly increased
food intake among all participants. This suggests that norms can influence food intake.
Product labelling is considered an important instrument for changing and influencing
dietary habits and behavior (Barreiro-Hurlé, Gracia, & de-Magistris, 2010). Product labels
currently allowed in the European Union’s legislative framework are the nutrition facts
panel, nutrition claims and health claims. There is a positive link between nutrition label
use and purchase behavior through the influence that the nutritional label use has on
consumer values and perception. Regardless of the type of nutrition information provided,
label use improves the overall quality of consumer diets. Label use is said to be influenced
by: nutrition knowledge, individual characteristics, economic conditions and time
constraints, health concerns and habits, product involvement, and other factors such as need
for information and lifestyle. Consumers with higher nutrition knowledge are more likely to
use nutrition labels when shopping for food. There is lack of consensus in the relations

47
between household income and size and their impact on label use. Some studies say, there
is a negative impact, still other say, there is a positive one. Health status and awareness,
though, are recognized to have a positive impact. The importance given by consumers to
price, nutrition, taste and convenience when shopping is used to capture consumer
involvement with food products. Importance attached to price is negatively correlated with
label use. Still, factors influencing label use also influence nutritional knowledge. In
particular, education, sex, level of income and health status positively influence nutritional
knowledge. In conclusion, the well informed consumer (that often reads the list of
ingredients or assigns more importance to nutrition) will more likely use the nutrition label
whereas the more price sensitive consumer is less likely to do so. Yet, the consumer more
interested in specific nutrient intake will use the fact panel, those concerned with general
health issues will use the claims panel, the same goes for those with a more hedonistic
lifestyle. In terms of knowledge, it is clear that the use of the nutrition facts panel will lead
to an increase in consumer knowledge, this does not apply to the claims panel.
Consumers can be segmented according to perceptions of the meaning of health and
each segment has different health-related motive orientation (Geeroms, Verbeke, &
Kenhove, 2008). Health-related motive dimensions include energy, emotional well-being,
social responsibility, physical well-being, achievement, outward appearance, enjoyment
and autonomy. The first segment is Energetic experimenters, which perceive health mainly
in terms of vitality and energy. They are the youngest segment, mostly singles, with an
overrepresentation of males. Harmonious Enjoyers interpret health in terms of enjoying life
and emotional well-being. Normative Carers perceive health as a social responsibility and
are mainly concerned about physical well-being and security. Women are strongly over
represented in this segment as well as people keeping the house, i.e.
housewives/househusbands. Normative Carers are slightly older with a mean age of 43.3
years and 76.4% of them have children in their family. Conscious Experts perceive health
in terms of achievement and outward appearance. These respondents deal with health in a
very self-conscious way and strongly stress their own, independent capacities to keep
control over their health. These are young professionals with the majority of them having
no children in the family. Rationalists mainly focus on functional/rational aspects of the
meaning of health. They are slightly older and most of them have a family to care for.

48
Within this segment health is perceived in terms of autonomy, with a focus on finding the
right balance and organising life between professional work and family.
Concerning the associations of health-related motive orientations with convenience of
food consumption, several significant differences were found between the five consumer
segments. Energetic Experimenters and Conscious Experts show significantly more
positive attitudes towards ready meals and more substantial penetration of ready meals, as
well as higher consumption frequency levels could be identified. They believe to a greater
extent that ready meals are not expensive, contain few additives, are something special,
have a good taste and are not harmful for one’s figure. Normative Carers and Rationalists
perceive the credence attributes (i.e. healthiness, nutritional value and shelf life date) as
more important compared to the other segments and they attach higher importance to price.
Within the category of sensory criteria, these two segments consider freshness as very
important, as is also the case for Harmonious Enjoyers. In addition, Harmonious Enjoyers
together with Energetic Experimenters attach greater importance to the taste of ready
meals. Finally, status criteria (i.e. exclusiveness and brand name) are perceived as more
important by Conscious Experts.
The discussion on the health dimension continues with a focus on functional food –
food, which is perceived to be health beneficial; and on genetically modified food – food,
which is perceived to be related to a considerable risk for the health when consumed.

Functional food
Functional food is typically marketed as one that contains technologically developed
ingredients with a specific health benefit. There are many different definitions of functional
food and they range from very simple ‘Foods that may provide health benefits beyond basic
nutrition’ to the more complex: ‘Food similar in appearance to conventional food that is
intended to be consumed as part of a normal diet, but has been modified to subserve
physiological roles beyond the provision of simple nutrient requirements’ (Bech-Larsen &
Grunert, 2003).
The perception of healthiness of functional food concerns in particular the type of health
claims enrichments, processing methods, and base products used. Health claims can alter
the perception of the healthiness of the processes and enrichments involved in the
production of functional food. Health claims are legislatively determined as physiological
49
and as prevention claims (Poulsen J., 1999). Physiological claims describe how a functional
enrichment affects the body, while prevention claims explain the desease, which is
prevented by the enrichment.
Physiological and prevention claims have a positive influence on consumers’ perception
of the healthiness of foods (Grunert, Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000). This conclusion is
also reached later by Bech-Larsen and Grunert (2003). They assert that claims can be used
to enhance consumers’ perception of the healthiness of functional foods. But the perception
of the nutritional quality of the base product has the largest effect on the perception of food
healthiness. For example, the base product ‘spread’ used in their study, which is inherently
perceived as unhealthy, interacted positively with both kinds of enrichments (omega-3 and
oligosaccharides) compared to the negative interactions between the latter and the orange
juice and yoghurt (the other two food products used in the research). A likely explanation
for this occurrence is that consumers perceive juice and yoghurt as healthy per se and their
enrichment is devaluated. This means that the perception of functional food healthiness
depends on the particular food and type of enrichment considered, implying that the
acceptance of functional food might not be unconditional, varying with the type of product
considered. So before launching a functionally enriched product, marketers should make a
research on the attitudes towards the particular base product and the enrichment to be
involved. In general, functional food that has a base product that is considered healthy per
se might be more easily accepted by consumers.
Within the European Union, Regulation EC (No) 1924/2006 (Commission, 2007) allows
basically two types of claims to be made on foodstuffs: nutrition claims and health claims.
The latter can be divided into functional health claims and reduction of disease risk claims.
Generally, functional health claims outperform nutrition claims, and both of these claim
types outperform reduction of disease risk claims (Verbeke, Scholderer, & Lähteenmäki,
2009). The worse evaluations of reduction of disease risk claims relative to nutrition and
functional health claims suggest that the more one triggers, the more this may induce
scepticism among consumers. Furthermore, these claims can act as negative reinforcement
messages because they explicitly name a disease risk. Consumers may dislike being
reminded of such risks or potential losses particularly in a food-related context where
hedonic values and pleasure play an important role (Verbeke, 2006), and therefore respond

50
in lower scores. However, consumers tend to prefer functional food concepts, which
primarily communicate disease-related health benefits in carriers that have an image or
history in healthiness, like margarine, yoghurt (Kleef, Trijp, & Luning, 2005). In this
respect, physiology-based health benefits (e.g. heart health, osteoporosis, cancer) are
preferred over the ‘softer’ psychology/behavior-based benefits, simply because negative
information is more informative, attracts more attention and stimulates deeper information
processing than positive information. Further, health claim perceptions primarily differ to
the extent that they are personally relevant to the consumer in addressing an experienced
disease state. Verbeke et al.’s study (2009) confirms that positive attitudes towards
functional foods and familiarity with the concrete functional product category boost the
claim type, whereas perceived control over own health and perceiving functional foods as a
marketing scam decreased all product concept’s appeal (namely calcium-enriched fruit
juice, omega-3 enriched spread, and fibre-enriched cereals).
Claims convey to the consumer relevant information on food content and health benefits
and as such, they facilitate consumers to make well-informed food choices. Consumer
choices for functional foods depend on how consumers perceive and understand these
claims. Therefore, nutrition and health-related claims have become regulated to avoid the
use of unjustified and potentially misleading claims and to enhance healthy-food choices
(Trijp & Lans, 2007). There have been identified three types of potential biases in consumer
inferences from nutrition and health claims. First, the so-called ‘mere-label’ effect, which
means that consumers overestimate products’ benefits of all food attributes just because of
the mere presence of a claim, which is not necessarily a nutrition and health claim. The
second effect is called ‘halo’ effect, which makes consumers generalize a positive
perception of particular nutrient/ingredient to other nutrient levels not implicit in the claim
(e.g. a claim for low cholestorol will lead to the implication of low fat). The third effect is
the ‘magic bullet’ effect, which makes consumers attribute inappropriate health benefits to
the product.
Health claim per se is not likely to cause any unrealistic positive inferences in perceived
product quality (Lähteenmäki et al., 2010). Health claims can be expected to increase
perceived healthiness of products, but the increase will be moderate at best and the impact
can also be negative when consumers are approached with claims containing ingredients

51
and benefits they have not been exposed to before. Consumers do not readily accept the
health information in the claim unless it is confirmed by their existing knowledge and
beliefs. Health-related claims have the largest impact on perceived naturalness suggesting
that consumers perceive added functional components as unnatural.
Consumers tend to perceive functional food as unhealthy, because of the ‘unhealthy
artificial additives’ and the enrichment methods used in the production process (Bech-
Larsen & Grunert, 2003). Thus, perceptions and attitudes towards functional foods can be
difficult to change, since they are culturally determined in the values of consumers.
However, Schwartz (1994) ascertains that consumers’ attitudes to functional foods can be
influenced by the cultural value ‘harmony’ and ‘mastery’. ‘Mastery’ entails active and self-
assertive manipulation of the social and natural environment. ‘Harmony’, on the other
hand, accentuates on the co-existence wth nature and rejects the manipulation of natural
resources. Cultural impact on the perception of healthiness in functional foods should be
investigated in details in order to uncover relationships, which will better describe the
quality perception processes related to the healthiness of food.
Apart from perceiving functional foods as unnatural, the consumers thought that
functional foods would falsely compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle (Landström, Hursti, &
Magnusson, 2009). The use of functional foods is considered to be justified when a healthy
lifestyle is incapable of improving people’s health. Consumers perceive themselves to be in
no need of functional foods. They think that the foods is meant for others, for those in
unquestionable need.
Health enhancement and health risk prevention through appropriate dietary choices are
the most important motives for puchasing functional food (Krystallis, Maglaras, &
Mamalis, 2008). On the other hand, the most important attributes of functional foods that
affect their purchasing decisions are such as the product is ‘pure’, ‘safe’, ‘healthy’ and of a
high ‘quality’.
Taste expectation and experiences have been reported as extremely critical factors when
choosing functional food (Poulsen, 1999). Acceptance of functional food has become more
conditional, particularly with respect to taste, and monitoring taste emerges as an extremely
critical factor for the future of functional food (Verbeke, 2006). Consumers have become,
however, more convinced that good taste and healthiness are not necessarily to be traded-

52
off against each other (Verbeke, 2006). Health-orientation, more than before, is the driver
or motivation for being willing to compromise on taste. Willingness to compromise on taste
increases with age (Verbeke, 2006). The increasing perceived importance of food for
health, combined with the decreasing belief in health benefits from functional foods—
which in the end translates into a lower willingness to compromise on taste — are
evolutions that are indicative for a lower conviction that functional foods can constitute a
part of a healthy and tasteful diet among the majority of consumers (Verbeke, 2006).
Price and brand name attributes are also important to the consumer when considering the
purchase of functional food (Krystallis, Maglaras, & Mamalis, 2008; Ares, Giménez, &
Deliza, 2010). Further, consumers are not willing to sacrifice convenience, to risk in
trusting unknown brands or to spend more money in order to purchase foods with
functional characteristics (Krystallis, Maglaras, & Mamalis, 2008).
Different gender and age groups showed different preference patterns for the functional
foods (Olsen, 2003; Ares & Gámbaro, 2007; Verbeke, 2006; Poulsen, 1999; Bech-Larsen,
Grunert, & Poulsen, 2001; Ares, Giménez, & Deliza, 2010; Ares, Giménez, & Gámbaro,
2009; Roininen, Lähteenmäki, & Tuorila, 1999; Krystallis, Maglaras, & Mamalis, 2008),
which shows that it is important to take into account the influence of the socio-demographic
variables when determinging the consumers’ perception of healthiness of functional food.
For example, research results related to different perception of functional foods concepts
with gender and age suggest the importance of segmentation and studying the perception of
particular groups when designing functional foods (Ares & Gámbaro, 2007). Overall,
young adults are more interested in energy enhancement attributes, such as added vitamins
and minerals, while early-middle-aged emphasize more on disease prevention attributes,
such as lower cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases risk reduction (Krystallis, Maglaras,
& Mamalis, 2008). Nevertheless, it is suggested that knowledge and belief outweigh the
impact of socio-demographic determinants on functional food acceptance (Verbeke, 2005).
Finally, social trust is an important factor for the consumers’ willingness to buy
functional food (Siegrist, Stampfli, & Kastenholz, 2008). Consumers who have trust in the
food industry are more likely to buy functional foods. And trust is needed, because health
benefits delivered by functional foods cannot be directly experienced. Consumers must
believe the producers’ claims that their products deliver certain health benefits. Another

53
factor describing consumers’ willingness to buy functional food is the reward obtained from
using functional food (Urala & Lähteenmäki, 2004). In addition to the perceived reward,
the necessity for functional foods affects positively the willingness to use functional food
products. Further research about the influence of non-sensory variables on consumer
perception of functional foods is necessary.

Genetically modified food


As mentioned before, health has two dimensions – eating healthily and avoiding
unhealthy eating. The later is related to food safety and risk perception. Genetically
modified (GM) organisms are one of the examples for risk perception, which have a
potential risk without proven damage. GM foods represent new technologies that generate
benefits in terms of cheaper production costs and food atribute enhancement, and costs
incurred in the form of ethical and moral issues, unexpected allergic reactions, long-term
health and environmental impacts (Roe & Teisl, 2007). The perception of these benefits and
costs will determine consumers’ responses to the new technologies and consequently the
success of the particular food products.
Risks and benefits associated with the technology explain the attitudes towards the use
of GMOs in food production (Bredahl, 2001). Consumer benefits are a precondition for
consumer acceptance of a GM technology (Bredahl, et al., 2004). Health benefits do not as
such increase consumer acceptance of such foods. Consumers’ rejection is so persistent that
not even the introduction of GM foods with substantial consumer benefits can change it. In
other words, substantial benefits, e.g. health related ones, are a necessary but not a
sufficient condition for increased consumer acceptance.
European consumers seem to perceive considerable risk in GM technology (Bredahl,
Grunert, & Frewer, 1998). Consumers host negative associations with GM food, namely
less healthiness, less enjoyment, morally wrong, harms nature, cannot trust, etc. (Grunert,
Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000). Indeed, being non-GM is regarded as a major benefit of
foodstuff (Grunert et al., 2000).
These beliefs about GM food are generally seen to inhibit the attainment of individual
life values such as happiness and inner harmony, long and healthy life, quality of life and
security, and the more social life values responsibility for nature and responsibility for the
welfare of other people (Bredahl L., 1999).
54
The perceived benefits are explained by the perceived risks, that is, the more risk
consumers perceive, the harder it becomes to see any benefits, which means that simply
stating the benefits will not succeed in changing consumer attitudes towards GM
technologies. More importantly, the attitude towards GM in food production is deeply
embedded in more general attitudes held by the consumers, in particular attitude towards
nature and attitude towards technology. In other words, cultural determinants play an
important role in the consumer’s approval of a specific technology, and that beliefs about its
benefits and risks are rooted in more general knowledge and attitudes toward nature and
technology and are therefore difficult to change. Specifically, Siegrist (1999) found that an
individual’s assessment of gene technology is affected by both their world view and by
their perceptions of benefit and risk of the technology. Because these views are also
culturally constrained, it is possible that international differences in opinion toward GM
food are embedded in these cultural attitudes.
The perceptions of risks and benefits of GM food are not independently distributed
(Costa-Font & Mossialos, 2007). Individuals that are likely to identify high risks with
regard to GM food might be those who also identify lower benefits. Prior beliefs do not
seem to be influential in determining perceptions of the risks and benefits of GM food.
Knowledge of science, though, significantly affects perceptions of benefits, whereby the
larger the individual knowledge of biotech-related facts generally, the larger the perceived
benefits of GM food. This points out that there might be a ‘fear of the unknown’ underlying
individual perceptions of GM food.
Beliefs relating to perceived unhealthiness and low trustworthiness of the GM products
are generally seen to inhibit the attainment of individual life values such as happiness and
inner harmony, long and healthy life, quality of life and security, and the more social life
values responsibility for nature and responsibility for the welfare of other people (Bredahl,
1999). Thus, consumers consider risks and benefits of GM in the light of perceived
consequences for themselves, as well as for other people and for the environment, where
‘other people’ primarily refers to one’s family and future generations. The benefits which
are attributed to the GM cannot compensate for the perceived undesirable consequences of
the GM. Moreover, for attitude changes to occur, the important life values would have to be
fulfilled by providing relevant consumer benefits and by reducing actual and possible

55
misperceived risks. Many consumers oppose genetic modification in food production also
for ethical reasons which are not likely to be affected by changes in the perceived
risk/benefit ratio.
The provision of additional information about GM does not change attitudes to GM in
food production, but activates existing attitudes and makes them more relevant for the
specific food choice. This is known as the attitude activation effect (Eagly & Chaiken,
1993). And since attitudes are predominantly negative towards GM food, the result of
providing more information is a decrease rather than increase in the probability that
consumers will actually choose a GM product (Frewer et al., 2000).
Psychology distinguishes between implicit and explicit attitudes. Implicit attitudes are
more stable and less flexible than explicit attitudes and will only change over a longer
period of time. Explicit attitudes, in contrast, appear to be easier to manipulate and can be
altered in a short period of time as new information is received. A study on implicit
attitudes towards GM foods (Spence & Townsend, 2006) reveals that participants were
found to hold positive implicit attitudes towards GM foods when these were assessed in a
context free manner (not in a context with conventional and organic food) and this may
lead to approach behavior rather than avoidance behavior towards GM food. This result
suggests that attitudes can be influenced by public communication campaigns, and
advertsing about GM food. In particular, implicit attitudes can be affected through repeated
associations of GM food with valent information.
The attitude towards buying food product, which in turn determines intention to buy the
product, is mostly influenced by the perceived trustworthiness of the product, and only to a
much lesser extent by the perceived product quality, which here includes taste, texture,
handling and wholesomeness (Grunert, Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000). Moreover, both
perceived trustworthiness of the product and perceived quality of the product to a large
extent are determined by the respondents’ general attitude towards the use of GM in food
production.
Trustworthiness of the product can be related to the credibile information about GM in
food. Credibility, though, is a characteristic which consumers cannot experience when
consuming the product, and is thus a question of communication. Communicating the
credibility of claims on health is related to convincing consumers in the veraciousness of

56
these claims. When it comes to GM, however, communication is related to the act of
convincing consumers that GM is not bad.
For a labelling program to be successful and for a better perception of the GM food,
both the message contained in GM labels and the messenger has to be taken into
consideration (Roe & Teisl, 2007). This, of course, will affect the adoption of GM
technologies and, potentially, the shape of the emerging GM food sector. Labels that
explicitly state GM content cause perception of more long-term health problems and lower
purchase intent. When the GM claim, however, is expanded to include the reason for the
genetic modification, respondents’ purchase intent increases. Labels where GM is
mentioned as the means for implementing a more fundamental claim (e.g., 50% less fat or
50% fewer pesticides used), the credibility is higher. That is, the explanation of the means
of implementing promised improvements may help establish credibility in the eyes of the
consumer.
Credibility of the information may also be supported by a certified organ, so that
consumers feel adequately informed (Roe & Teisl, 2007). Messages on GM food provided
by certified organs/government agencies, consumer organizations and companies should
not be conflicting, but based on consensus, so that the consumers’ risk perception does not
increase (Dean & Shepherd, 2007). Thus, collaboration among different agencies,
companies and governmental representatives will be beneficial for getting a message across
to the public. Also, the provision of contact information significantly improves the
credibility and adequacy ratings of both the GM claim (Roe & Teisl, 2007).
It is interesting to note that consumers perceive the production of GM food for
nutritional purposes as acceptable, which indicates that this technology would be viewed as
appropriate for the production of functional foods or nutraceuticals, where the benefits are
perceived as superior to the risks (Mucci & Hough, 2004). Nevertheless, consumers’
acceptance of GM foods differ among commodities – conclusion supported also by Huang,
Qiu, Bai, and Pray (2006). This means that consumers have some knowledge on GM and
can discriminate on the consequences of applying GM to different living organisms.
Information and knowledge are important factors affecting the consumers’ attitudes
towards GM food (Huang, Qiu, Bai, & Pray, 2006). For example, consumers who have not
heard of GM food have a lower approval rate than those who have heard. No significant

57
difference exists between male and female respondents. The acceptance of GM foods does
not necessarily imply willingness to buy them. Other factors such as prices may determine
the purchase of GM foods. Empirically, prices of GM foods affect the consumers’
willingness to buy GM foods. Higher price, though, has a negative effect on WTP (Grunert
et al., 2004).
Willingness to purchase GM food is higher, when the relative product quality of the GM
product is higher (Scholderer, Søndergaard, & Grunert, 2006). Researchers suggest that
direct experience with high-quality products may indeed be the only way in which
consumer attitudes towards GM foods can be changed in Europe. This conclusion is
supported by in the works of Bech-Larsen and Grunert (2000), and Grunert et al., (2004).
Preference as well as attitude change are dependent on the quality advantage of GM
products relative to conventional competitor products. These results illustrate that taste
experience together with substantial health benefits may improve acceptance rates of
specific GM foods, but foods with health benefits should be trustworthy and demanded by
consumers.
Some consumers, however do not perceive the attributes “better taste” and “lower price”
as sufficiently good arguments for purchasing GM foods (Magnusson & Hursti, 2002). This
finding is interesting, as these two characteristics are usually two very important food
purchase criteria. It may be interpreted to reflect that for GM foods the production method
is a characteristic, which is regarded as more important than other criteria otherwise
considered as highly important. Tangible benefits like better for the environment or
healthier seem also to increase consumer willingness to purchase GM foods.
Brand equity and store loyalty have also an influence on consumers’ food purchasing
decision (Lusk et al., 2001). Consumers are likely to purchase GM foods from
agribusinesses with high levels of brand equity or store loyalty even if competing
agribusinesses with low levels of brand equity or store loyalty begin selling non-GM food.
However, it should be taken into account that the education level of the consumers matters
in this case, since those with more knowledge on GM, are more accepting of that
technology.
In summary, the lack of trust in the use of GM overcompensates for potential positive
effects on hedonic, health-related or convenience-related quality, and both trust and

58
perception of possible quality benefits are framed by the existing general attitudes towards
the use of GM, which means that both communication trying to establish more trust and
communication advocating tangible benefits of the use of GM face an uphill fight against
the existing (and mostly negative) general attitudes (Grunert, Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl,
2000).

Process dimension
In the last decade, the interest in the way food is produced has increased as the most
attention is focused on organic production, animal welfare and naturalness of the food
production methods. The naturalness of the food production relates to the use of GMO and
in this respect to health, which was discussed in the previous section. Just a short reminder
of the section – consumers perceive GM food to be unnatural, unhealthy, unethical and
bearing considerable risk or in other words, consumers perceive and evaluate GM food
qualities negatively. The current section has to do with food process qualities that
consumers evaluate positively, namely organic food production.
Marketing organic food products based on credence dimensions is challenging, because
consumers cannot verify the claims in the provided information. The credibility of
information from sources with vested interests in the topic of the message is generally low,
and advertising information is therefore a priori a source with low credibility (Grunert,
Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000). Marketing of organic products is a good example of how
different countries employ different instruments to enhance credibility. In Denmark, for
instance, organic food products are controlled and assigned by the state (a Danish ‘Ø’ with
the Royal Crown), which is uniformly applied by all producers of organic products. In
Germany, as another example, many different labelling schemes have been used, none of
which are endorsed by government or other producer-independent institutions (Grunert,
Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000).
Credibility characteristics are difficult for the consumers to ascertain, therefore trust
becomes a key issue when buying food. For brands, credibility is to a large extent related to
the brand history. For generic marks, credibility also depends on the history of the mark,
but in addition to this it depends on the body assigning the mark.

59
Generic marks are used on products in combination with brands and are intended to
support the brand. They are some kind of non-company specific symbol, which certifies
that a product has certain characteristics (Brunsø, Fjord, & Grunert, 2002).
The labelling practices have strong impact on the consumers’ judgements of the
information available on the organic products. A study on the purchase of organic diary
products in Denmark and Germany (Grunert, Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000) shows that
Danish consumers have more confidence in the information that a food is organic compared
to the German consumers, which can be related to the different ways of providing
information on organic production. This suggests that involvement of a third party (for
example, the government) will provide more credibility to the producer’s claims. It has to
be mentioned that organic food products on the Danish market exist for long time and they
have large market share, which additionally contributes to the established trust between
consumers and food category. In other words, when organic products are on the market for
long period of time and label schemes has gained consumers’ confidence, inferences based
on the label will be common for both consumers who actually buy such products and for
consumer that do not purchase regularly organic food.
Higher degree of confidence is related to lower degree of satisfaction with the available
information and thus additional information is demanded (Grunert, Bech-Larsen, &
Bredahl, 2000). When trustworthiness in labelling information is lower, consumers usually
refer to retail forms with higher credibility and/or where guidance of customers is available.
That is, the probability of buying organic products mainly in regular supermarkets instead
of in health shops and other alternative retail forms increases with confidence in the
labelling scheme. Thus, consumers substitute the use of the extrinsic cue ‘generic mark’
with the use of another extrinsic cue, the shopping environment, depending on the degree of
trust in the mark. Purchasing certified organic food is one way for consumers to get
information about the non-observable food quality aspects (Torjusen et al., 2001).
Increased confidence in organic labelling will have the meaning that consumers believe
that the products actually possess those characteristics associated with organic production:
production methods which are better for the environment, better for animal welfare, better
for working conditions during production. In general, environmental and animal welfare
concerns have an important role in forming attitudes towards consuming organic food

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(Honkanen, Verplanken, & Olsen, 2006). This means that the more people are concerned
with environmental and animal rights issues, the more positive attitudes they have towards
organic food. Consumers with positive attitudes towards consumption of organic food are
more likely to form intentions to consume such food, thus converting positive attitudes to
intentions (Saba & Messina, 2003). But turning back to the confidence in labelling, it can
be concluded that the resulting consumer confidence has an impact both on store choice and
on product choice (Grunert, Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000).
Once a label has gained consumer confidence, it can also become the basis for consumer
inferences – i.e. other quality dimensions, in addition to what the label stands for, can be
inferred based on the label (Grunert, Bech-Larsen, & Bredahl, 2000). When it comes to
labels for organic foods, it can be concluded that consumers infer other positive quality
dimensions like taste (Kihlberg & Risvik, 2007) and health, (Baadsgaard, Grunert, Grunert,
& Skytte, 1994) from the label ‘organic’, if the particular label has gained the consumer
confidence. Specific types of packaging and high price are also associated with the label
‘organic’. Overall, consumers expect organic food to be of better quality across all quality
dimensions (Grunert & Andersen, 2000). But positive inferences do not necessarily lead to
a purchase, if consumers find the trade-off between give and get component unfavorable
(Bech-Larsen & Grunert, 1998). The price, in such cases, will have a main role in the
purchasing decision for organic food (Baadsgaard et al., 1994).
Consumers’ expectancy about the eating quality is substantially higher in meat (pork)
that is produced in organic and free-range systems (Scholderer, Nielsen, & Bredahl, 2004).
In most cases though, the performance of organic and free-range pork is equal to, and in
some times even lower than that of conventional pork. However, consumers’ expectations
may be so strong that they may override differences in experienced quality. The effects of
label information are substantially higher than the effects of actual meat type, which
suggests that the experienced quality of organic pork is very much a matter of expectations.
Further, studies show that indoor and outdoor rearing systems do not affect the
appearance of pork meat (Dransfield, et al., 2005). For example, colour of meat from
intensive and outside paddock systems, chemical composition, and intramuscular fat do not
seem to be different due to different rearing systems. The eating quality of meat from
outdoor production is similar to that from indoor production. This means that rearing has

61
less influence on sensory quality than genotype. There are no differences in off-odour,
tenderness, meat taste and off-taste, although pork from outdoor pigs was judged less juicy
and more crumbly than that from the conventional indoor system. Also, pork from pigs
raised with an access to the outside area had a poorer eating quality than conventional pork
(Scholderer, Nielsen, & Bredahl, 2004), which means that the inconsistent effect of raising
system on eating quality could not be used to marketing advantage, because expectations
exceed the experienced quality in most cases (Grunert & Andersen, 2000). It is important to
mention that there is a consistent effect of labeling on the willingness to pay. After tasting
labelled pork, consumers are prepared to pay extra for the labelled pork.
Let us take another interesting example of labeling effects on organic food perceptions.
Labels stating the production methods (consisting of organic production, health-oriented
production and animal welfare orientation) of broiler meat (Pouta et al., 2010) has a
positive effect on the respondents’ choice. Production promoting consumer health is less
preferred in comparison with organic production or production that places the emphasis on
animal welfare. This may be partly explained by the perception of broiler fillets as a healthy
choice compared to pork or beef, and as such there is no willingness to pay for additional
health attributes such as ω-3 fatty acids. In addition, this may be because broiler meat
products promoting consumer health are not currently available on the market. This
suggests that when marketers want to promote a particular quality to consumers, they
should first research the consumers’ perception of that particular product, so that the
promotion is fully effective.
In conclusion, the fact that consumers associate organic production not only with good
health, animal welfare and concern for the environment, but also with good taste means that
the characteristic ‘organic’ is no longer only a credence characteristic, but is also partly an
experience characteristic, where expectations can be confirmed or disconfirmed after the
purchase. Where consumers have expectations about the better taste of organic products, a
disconfirmation of this expectation raises another potential barrier to organic demand
(Brunsø, Fjord, & Grunert, 2002). This barrier can be perceived as a trade-off between taste
and process.
But who are actually the consumers that frequently purchase organic food? Studies show
that these are consumers concerned with health related aspects of food, such as how the

62
food is produced, processed and handled, and how this may affect people, animals and
nature along the way (Torjusen, Lieblein, Wandel, & Francis, 2001). Consumers of organic
food consider important food’s appearance, freshness, taste, and shelf life; recognize their
own role in the food system, including concern for their local environment. Organic
consumers are less concerned about a wide selection of food, low price and issues of
convenience. These results address the issue that conventional consumers and those who
purchase organic food have different valuation patterns regarding food and food
procurement.
Also, the profile of the average organic consumer appear to be working females who
belong to higher income levels, are more educated, younger, married at a lesser extent, and
with fewer children (Krystallis, Arvanitoyannis, & Chryssohoidis, 2006). The major
purchase motives for organic products are health, nutrition, family acceptance, and
enjoyment (Baadsgaard et al., 1994). Honkanen, Verplanken, and Olsen (2006) add to the
motives environmental concern, food safety, sensory variables, ethical concerns or value
structure. In addition, budgetary restraints are categorized as the most important motive for
not eating organic food (Bech-Larsen & Grunert, 1998) and as it is earlier stated – one of
the factors that limit organic food choice.
The major quality aspects of organic food are freshness, nutritiousness, good taste and
healthiness. Consumers find also that limited availability and high price are the main
problems related to organic food (Krystallis, Arvanitoyannis, & Chryssohoidis, 2006;
Kihlberg & Risvik, 2007). Honkanen, Verplanken, & Olsen (2006) add to the factors that
limit organic food choice with satisfaction with conventional food, lack of trust and lack of
perceived value.
On the other hand, organic food consumers are less price-sensitive and are more
interested in quality signs (such as the organic label) and meat production method-related
information. They pay less attention to meat’s brand name, because they possibly relate
pre-packaging and branding to more intensive meat production methods. Furthermore,
organic consumers do not rely on animal part as meat quality criterion as much as the non-
buyers, because they are more involved in food purchasing and can potentially use more
reliable and sophisticated extrinsic and intrinsic cues as meat quality criteria. Overall,
organic consumers are interested to a greater extent in a relatively limited number of meat

63
quality criteria. These are mostly related to quality labels, production method and price of
food and are generally compatible to their expected attitudinal profile as organic
consumers. Perceptions of meat safety of organic buyers and non-buyers are the same,
which emphasizes that the notion of safety is embodied in meat by definition. From that
aspect, then, an organic piece of meat has nothing special to offer in comparison to its well-
inspected conventional counterpart (Krystallis, Arvanitoyannis, & Chryssohoidis, 2006).
Studies focus as well on cross-national differences to identify how organic is related to
self-relevant consequences and to the fulfilment of personal values (Thogersen & Bredahl,
2006). For instance, Danish consumers appear to have the most differentiated and British
consumers the simplest structure of associations to organic food among the four countries.
For German consumers, the issue of the trustworthiness of the organic claim seem
particularly salient, whereas associations to enjoyment and to additives in foods are
especially characteristic for Spanish consumers. Preservation of nature is a particularly
important motive for Danish consumers. What consumers associate with organic foods, that
is, their reasons for buying or rejecting it, is affected by national conditions, food cultures,
and traditions. Despite the identification of similar food-related lifestyles across countries,
the beliefs and attribute to value chains associated with organic foods differ substantially
between countries, even within the same cross-national segment. The basic motives and
reasons for buying organic food are independent of the processing level of the foods (either
fresh or processed food).

Convenience dimension
Convenience is considered one of the most important determinants of consumer’s food
choice (Buckley, Cowan, & McCarthy, 2007). It is associated with reducing the input
required from consumers in either food shopping, preparation, cooking or cleaning after the
meal. Convenience is defined in terms of the time, physical energy and mental effort
savings offered to the consumer in food-related activities. Attitudes to convenience affect
convenience-related behaviour, and are in turn directly dependant on consumers’
involvement with food and consumers’ perceived household resources.
Two theoretical approaches have been dominant in attempts to explain the increasing
importance of convenience: the household production approach and the convenience
orientation approach (Scholderer & Grunert, 2005). The household production approach
64
goes back to the work of Becker (1965), who argues that households produce outputs like
meals for the family employing a production function in which products and services
purchased, the capital stock of the household and the time used are the major production
factors. So, when the opportunity cost of time increases, this will result in time used for
meal production being substituted by increased purchase of time-saving products, services
or kitchen appliances speeding up the production of meals. Time and effort dimensions
should be explored more profoundly. As to the effort dimension, physical effort and
mental/cognitive effort should be separately investigated (Jaeger & Meiselman, 2004).
The demographic determinants in the household production approach are regarded as
determinants of convenience orientation, or, put another way, convenience orientation is
regarded as a mediator between demographic (and other) determinants and convenience-
related behaviours. Other determinants are the participation of women in the labour market,
changing household structure, consumer prosperity and ownership, declining cooking
skills, desire for new experiences, individualism, breakdown of traditional mealtimes, and
value for money (Buckley, Cowan & McCarthy, 2007).
The convenience orientation approach is based on attitudinal variables and has a heavy
emphasis on the importance of perceived contraints. Convenience orientation can be
loosely defined as a positive attitude towards time and energy saving aspects in household
meal production. The concept has been defined and developed most clearly in the work of
Candel (2001), who has developed a convenience orientation scale, which is
unidimensional and contains items like ‘‘The less physical energy I need to prepare a meal,
the better’’, ‘‘The ideal meal can be prepared with little effort’’ and ‘‘Preferably, I spend as
little time as possible on meal preparation’’. Convenience orientation, being an attitudinal
construct, is expected to have an impact on convenience-related behaviours, like the
purchase of convenience products, the use of convenient shopping outlets and the use of
eating out and home meal replacements.
Generally, convenience foods can be looked at in several ways. These foods can be
narrowly classified by the type of processing technology employed: canning, freezing,
dehydration, chilling, chemical preserving, etc., or by the type of food: frozen and canned
vegetables; cake mixes and bakery products; soups, sauces, and condiments; processed

65
meats and fish; chilled and frozen dairy-based products; ready-to-eat and shelf-stable
dishes; plus many other types (Tillotson, 2003).
Scholderer and Grunert (2005) conduct a study covering several aspects of TFQ model
by investigating time and money referring to perceived and objective costs; attitudes
towards expected convenience quality and intention to buy. They have found that attitudes
to convenience have significant direct effect on convenience-related behavior and are
directly dependent on consumers’ involvement with food and consumers’ perceived
household resources. Also, the effects of objective resource constraints on consumers’
convenience orientations are completely mediated by perceived resources. In addition, the
effects of perceived resources on convenience behaviours are completely mediated by
convenience orientation. The relationship between objective resources and convenience
behavior is rather complex. As already stated, family composition plays an important role
in resource perception, which implies that subjectively family life is perceived to consume
a lot of resources. When discussing convenience quality cross-cultural factors in the role of
food and eating should be taken into account, as well as cross-cultural factors in the
organization of household resources. For the first group of factors, the authors imply that
cross-cultural validity of food-related lifstyle instrument is different across Europe and
Asia, therefore generizabilty of the results is not recommended. The second group of
factors consider the effects of economic development and cultural influences on the
organization of household resources. Figure 13 shows different factors that affect the role
of convenience in consumer food quality perception and choice.

Figure 13. Objective and perceived household resources, convenience orientation, and
convenience behaviors

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Source: Scholderer and Grunert (2005)

Convenience orientation can also be negatively related to consumption, which can be


explained by the individuals’ perception of inconvenience of the product category (e.g. fish)
(Rortveit & Olsen, 2009). Attitude, perceived inconvenience and consideration set size are
argued to play a mediating role between convenience orientation and consumption.
Consideration set is shortly described as ‘the set of brands brought to mind on a particular
choice occasion’. It is argued to play critical role with regard to probability of choice.
The effect of convenience orientation on attitudes towards fish and fish consumption is
relatively weak – a result confirmed by Olsen et al., (2007). Consumers who perceive fish
as inconvenient have significantly lower attitudes towards fish. The perceived
inconvenience of fish has also a negative direct impact on fish consumption. Convenience
orientation is a variable describing a personal characteristic, whereas perceived product
inconvenience is a belief about the product or product category itself. Since changing
beliefs about a product is regarded as easier than changing personal characteristics,
perceived product inconvenience becomes very important, especially since the findings
show that perceived product inconvenience has a negative influence on attitude,
consideration, and consumption. An example from the Norwegian salmon industry shows

67
that in the past, frozen salmon for the consumer market were either vacuum-packed as
whole fillets (with skin and some bones) ranging from 1000 to 3000 g, or packed as whole
fish (with head and tail). A shift to a more convenient size and presentation (slices of 125–
140 g with no skin or bones) caused a dramatic increase in sales (Lerøy Seafood Group).
This simple change in packaging probably made consumers perceive salmon as less
inconvenient, resulting in fewer indirect negative effects on consumption through attitude
and consideration, as well as fewer direct negative effects on consumption. All of the above
suggests that convenience orientation can be crucial for food choice and consumption, but
can only be properly understood when the mediating processes are explored.
Considering the TFQ model, expected and experienced convenience cannot be omitted
of the discussion of this quality dimension. The literature reviewed, however, is not
systematic of information about the formation of expectation and actual experiences with
this quality dimension. Expected food convenience is found to be judged by the ease of
food preparation. Experienced convenience, on the other hand, is evaluated by two factors –
ease of preparation and speed of preparation (Costa & Ruijschop, 2006). Actual speed of
preparation is thus not significantly related to consumers’ expectations or the preparation
times announced by products.
Given the ever-increasing demand by consumers for convenience, the focus of food
manufacturers should not just be confined to the time, effort saving and perceived
household resources dimensions of a convenience food product, but should also centre on
other convenience factors. Other convenience factors can be used to make segmentation on
convenience consumers. Such segmentation will provide researchers and food
manufacturers with an insight into what motivates individuals to purchase convenience
foods, because consumers vary not only in their food-related lifestyles but also more
specifically in relation to their convenience lifestyles (Buckley, Cowan, & McCarthy,
2007). Segmentation gives the opportunity for food manufacturers to launch specific
product offerings and develop communications strategies to target each of the identified
segments that address the desired benefits sought by each of the food-related lifestyle
segments and the convenience lifestyle segments.
Swoboda and Morschett (2001) make very basic convenience segmentation and
distinguish between convenience shoppers and those who do not shop in convenience shops

68
based on purchasing behaviour. They found that 57% of those surveyed were convenience
purchasers, and that:
 Convenience purchasers seem to plan the purchase of convenience food products or
meals in advance.
 The convenience customers place significantly more emphasis on the ease of
purchase than price (both with respect to their weekly shopping and convenience
purchases).
The last two findings agree well with results of surveys of food-related lifestyles. As
described earlier, some segments are much more convenience-oriented than others,
especially the ‘careless’ food consumer. These consumers put most emphasis on quick and
easy cooking, compared with the other segments. At the same time, these consumers are not
as price-conscious as some of the other segments, which is the same combination of traits
found by Swoboda and Morschett (2001).
This ‘careless’ segment is more or less what we would expect from consumers who are
convenience oriented: they are not very interested in the taste, health or process-related
quality aspects of food, and food as a means of achieving basic life values is not very
important to them. However, interest in convenience has been rising in the other segments
too, which means that the market for convenience products is expanding: while they have
traditionally appealed to consumers with little interest in other aspects of food quality, there
now seems to be a rising demand for products with good taste, health and process qualities,
which are at the same time convenient to buy, store, and use.

DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS


The purpose of the present thesis was to give an overview of the existing research works
on consumers’ food quality perception and food choice from the world academic literature
and outline existing relationships between the two constructs. Such kind of study was
conducted by (Brunsø, Fjord, & Grunert, 2002) but it is limited to an overview of the works
carried out in the MAPP research center in Aarhus, Denmark, which makes it incomplete in
terms of scholarly perspectives. Moreover, the present study is the first one to establish an
exhaustive contemporary list of the quality perception models. Similar work was completed

69
by Steenkamp back in 1989, when he introduced for the first time the Conceptual model of
the quality perception process.
The thesis shows that the food quality concept is a complex issue. Each consumer
perceives food quality in a subjective, unique and intangible way that can be classified
around four quality dimensions: hedonic, health, process, and convenience.
With regard to the hedonic dimension, it is clear that consumers have considerable
difficulty in forming quality expectations in a way that is predictive of later quality
experience. This conclusion is related to the cues used to form quality expectations. They
have limited predictive validity for the hedonic quality of the product both in-store and
upon consumption. Thus, consumers’ use of cues to infer hedonic quality is quite
misleading, which explains why consumers often experience a low degree of
correspondence between expected and experienced quality.
Consumers, with low-familiarity or low-involvement with the product category,
experience uncertainty with regard to the formation of quality expectations, so they rely on
extrinsic quality cues, such as brands, which indeed influence perception of intrinsic quality
cues. Strong brands help consumers form valid expectations about hedonic food quality
through experiencing and learning the quality characteristics of the branded product.
Expectations formed from previous experience, or beliefs based on information about
food’s taste or other attributes, play a profound role in consumers’ responses to sensory
properties of foods. The main challenge for consumers, however, is that food products like
meat, fruits, bread, are usually unbranded and their quality vary. Still, there are food
products, which are branded but the consumer is either unaware of their existence or s/he
does not relate the particular brand to consistent quality. In this case, consumers will rely on
other extrinsic cues, like price, store image, packaging, origin, and so on.
Health is important part of the consumer’s food quality perception and food choice.
Health quality is related to basic life values, like good health, long life, family’s welfare,
high quality life, healthy body and physical well-being. Eating healthily and health concept
is subjective and norms are considered to influence food intake. Consumers have developed
their own way of judgment of food healthiness but they clearly demonstrate awareness on
low fat, vitamins, cholesterol, unsaturated fatty acids and so on terms considered to be good
indicators of food healthiness.

70
Health is a credence characteristic of food products, so credible and effective
communication plays an essential role towards the achievement of positive evaluation of
this quality dimension. The effectiveness of communications depends on three factors: the
credibility of the source, the receiver’s motivation and ability to process the information.
On the other hand, the food manufacturer is legally restricted on the health claims. Thus,
the final communication has to abide by legal requirements and in the same time, has to
integrate consumers’ individual understanding of health concept.
The health dimension in the current thesis has been presented through empirical studies
conducted on functional food and genetically modified food. The perception of functional
food healthiness depends on the base product and its image or history in healthiness, but
overall consumers perceive added functional components as unnatural. Perceptions and
attitudes towards functional foods can be difficult to change, since they are culturally
determined in the values of consumers.
By the same token, GM food is associated with considerable risk for the consumers’
health and even the emphasized substantial benefits are not a sufficient condition for
increase in consumers’ acceptance. The attitude towards GM in food production is deeply
embedded in more general attitudes held by the consumers, in particular attitude towards
nature and attitude towards technology. In other words, cultural determinants play an
important role in the consumer’s approval of a specific technology, and beliefs about its
benefits and risks are rooted in more general knowledge and attitudes toward nature and
technology and are therefore difficult to change. Consumers’ attitudes towards GM food,
nevertheless, can be changed and researchers suggest that direct experience with high-
quality products may be one of the ways in achieving it.
Social, economic or demographical variables (e.g., income, age or family size) are
crucial to consider when analyzing consumers’ food quality perception and choice (Furst et
al., 1996). Additionally, differences in cultural values (e.g., Hofstede, 1980) are also an
interesting and relevant issue in cross-cultural studies. Over the life course, people change
their attitudes and motives, which contribute to changes in eating habits. In that respect, life
course can be a driver in food consumption behavior. The fact that the demography of age
in most Western countries is shifting to more elderly people suggests that increased demand
for healthy meals can be expected. The significant relationship between age, health

71
involvement and attitudes towards healthy meals implies that attitudes and health
involvement change over the life course, and may explain why the elderly of the future may
prefer healthy food rather than other meals on their menu (Olsen, 2003).
Just like health dimension, the process dimension is a credence characteristic of food, so
consumers rely on credible information when evaluating this food quality. The process
characteristics or more precisely the organic production characteristics of food are
considered to be better for the environment, better for animal welfare, and better for
working conditions during production. In addition, consumers associate organic production
with health and better taste, as the latter makes the characteristic ‘organic’ also partly an
experience characteristic. Overall, consumers expect organic food to be of better quality
across all quality dimensions. But positive inferences do not necessarily lead to a purchase,
if consumers find the trade-off between give and get component unfavorable. In this
respect, consumers find limited availability, high prices and mismatch between the
expected taste and experienced taste to be the main problems related to organic food.
Finally, what consumers associate with organic foods, that is, their reasons for buying or
rejecting it, is affected by national conditions, food cultures, and traditions. Despite the
identification of similar food-related lifestyles across countries, the beliefs and attribute to
value chains associated with organic foods differ substantially between countries, even
within the same cross-national segment. This leads to the conclusion that when food quality
and choice are analyzed, cultural characteristics need to be considered playing important
roles in the consumers’ quality perception processes related to organic food.
The last food quality dimension discussed in the thesis is convenience. Two approaches
attempt to analyze this quality: the household production approach and the convenience
orientation approach. The household production approach emphasizes on objective
production constraints and considers demographic determinants as major factors for
convenience orientation. On the other hand, the convenience orientation approach has been
developed relatively recently and the volume of research considering this approach is rather
small. This approach has as its common core the use of attitudinal variables and a heavy
emphasis on the importance of perceived as compared to objective constraints. It is
considered crucial for food choice and consumption but proper understanding will be
achieved only when the mediating processes are explored, i.e. attitudes, perceived

72
inconvenience and consideration set. It is recommended that this approach is further
broadened by investigating the effects of convenience orientation on the purchase of
convenience products, the use of convenient shopping outlets and the use of eating out and
home meal replacements. Also, for results that better reflect the perception of convenience
quality of food, segmentation of consumers is advisable.
It is essential to mention, that consumers apply all the four dimensions when judging
food quality, which means that all of them simultaneously play a significant role in the
formation of quality expectations and the consequent quality experiences. In this case, it
can be said that consumers are involved in a multidimensional quality perception process
when choosing food. One thing is clear that quality dimensions and applied quality cues are
idiosyncratic to the product category investigated and generalizations should be carefully
made.
Consumer segmentation is very important when food quality is analyzed. This is because
individuals are unique and as consumers they differ in the perception of food quality. Some
are price sensitive, other - are product-involved, still other are conservative or adventurous.
Whatever their characteristic, in order to better understand processes related to quality
judgments, consumers need to be grouped in different segments and analyzed according to
the specific characteristics of the group.
In this respect, social, cultural and demographic variables are essential to be considered
in future works, since their influence has been proven to affect consumer’s quality
perception and food choice. In the current thesis, reference groups, advertisements,
magazines, are not reflected in the quality judgment processes. It is recommended to do so,
because they have impact on consumer’s behavior, which can be related to food choice, as
well.
As to the models on food quality perception, TFQM appears to be comprehensive but
difficult to operationalize and quantify in empirical settings (Steenkamp and van Trijp,
1996). More research is needed on expected and experienced convenience; the effect of
food sensory characteristics on experienced convenience quality, the effect of eating
situation on the experienced taste, health, convenience, and process qualities.

73
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