Naturally functional? Spanish study questions consumer attitudes to functional and fortified foods

By Emma Jane Cash

- Last updated on GMT

iStock / kzenon
iStock / kzenon

Related tags: Functional foods, Nutrition

Spanish consumers tend to focus more on natural foods and consuming a balanced diet, than the consumption of fortified or functional foods, a new report finds.

The study, published in Spanish Journal of Marketing, reports that consumer attitudes towards healthy living and functional foods have a direct influence on their willingness to buy and consume different products.

A team from the University of Valencia, Spain, looked into the perceptions of diet, healthy lifestyles and functional foods in to help better understand how to market healthy products – finding that a positive attitude towards ‘functional foods’ influences consumption of them, but a general a healthy lifestyle is not.

Furthermore, a positive attitude to leading a healthy lifestyle does not necessarily mean a positive attitude to functional and fortified foods, said the authors – led by Küster-Boluda and Vidal-Capilla.

The pair commented that the results may come from health-conscious consumers in Spain not believing in the need to consume functional foods in order to be healthy.

Instead, Spanish consumers tend to consume natural foods and are more focused on finding a healthy balance in their diet, they suggested.

As such, marketing executives and departments should take these results into consideration when aiming nutritional products and functional foods at the Spanish consumer, they said.

“Marketing departments should consider these results when marketing campaigns if they want to influence the consumer’s attitude towards functional foods and, therefore, the will to consume them,” ​they said.

“To do this, they must focus on the reward, need, confidence and safety of these foods, which are the main variables that shape attitudes towards them”.

Consumer insights

The Spanish researchers aimed to analyse how consumer’s attitudes towards functional foods influences their willingness of consumption – to discover how healthy lifestyles and health concern influence feelings toward functional foods and finally to study which variables motivate or restrict a healthy lifestyle.

The 333 (60% women and 40% men) participants made up a sample population of Spanish men and women over the age of 20 years old.

Participants were e-interviewed using structured questionnaires during April to June 2015.

Most consumers feel that food is the way to improve their health and wellbeing, a factor many manufacturers are responding to, they noted.

However, if a food item is perceived to be healthy, consumers will rarely look at its nutritional information to double check.

Furthermore, while a positive attitude towards functional foods directly related to a positively influence the willingness to consume them, a general healthy lifestyle was not shown to influence the same measure. Neither was a healthy lifestyle indicative of a positive to functional foods, they said.

Gender differences and transparency should also be taken into account when developing marketing ploys, however.

Is gender a factor?

It was found that only one hypothesis, out of a total of five, was significantly different between men and women – showing that women and men differ significantly in the relationship between motivators and the healthy lifestyle.

More specifically, motivators influence healthy lifestyles more significantly in women than in men.

The authors say more research should be conducted with a greater number of variables being considered, as well as other geographical locations. 

Source: Spanish Journal of Marketing
Published online, DOI: 10.1016/j.sjme.2017.05.002
‘Consumer attitudes in the election of functional foods’
Authors: I. Küster-Boluda and I. Vidal-Capilla

Related topics: Markets and Trends

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