|Title||Understanding heterogeneity in decision-making among elderly consumers: the case of functional foods|
|Author(s)||Zanden, Lotte D.T. van der|
|Source||Wageningen University. Promotor(en): J.C.M. van Trijp, co-promotor(en): P.W. Kleef; R.A. de Wijk. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789463431439 - 161|
Marketing and Consumer Behaviour
|Publication type||Dissertation, internally prepared|
|Keyword(s)||voedselopname - ouderen - voedselsamenstellingtabellen - voedselverrijking - ouderenvoeding - leeftijdsgroepen - marketing - marketing van voedingsmiddelen - ziekenhuisdiëten - besluitvorming - consumenten - voedselconsumptie - food intake - elderly - food composition tables - food enrichment - elderly nutrition - age groups - marketing - food marketing - hospital diets - decision making - consumers - food consumption|
|Categories||Concepts of Food Quality|
The population of elderly has grown considerably over the past few decades, due to reduced birth rates and increased life expectancy. Old age is, however, still associated with a higher incidence of various health conditions that pose a threat to quality of life and result in high healthcare costs. Various products and services could help elderly to stay active and healthy for longer if they were adopted, such as mobility aids, home modifications and functional foods. A key challenge is to position products and services like these on the market in such a way that elderly can see their value and will start using them. In doing this, it is crucial to know what elderly need and to understand how they make decisions. This thesis therefore aims to provide a deeper understanding of decision-making among elderly consumers. It does so using functional foods as an example, and concentrates on answering the following research questions: 1) Which types of wants, inferences and intentions characterize the elderly consumer population? 2) What are relevant ways to distinguish between elderly consumers? and 3) How can elderly consumers be motivated to form consumption intentions for products and services aimed at promoting their wellbeing?
An experience-sampling paradigm shows that there are age-related differences in both desires (i.e. wants), such as the desire for food, and goals, such as the goal to work (i.e. intentions), but not in the way these wants and intentions interact with each other (Chapter 2). Young and old consumers experience the same types of conflict between their wants and intentions. The extent of conflict does change with age however, such that older adults experience conflict less often and less strongly than younger adults. This age-related difference can be partly explained by the way in which consumers perceive the time they have left in their lives. Those who perceive time as limited, experience more conflict. Zooming in on product-specific decision-making, a series of focus groups indicates that elderly consumers overall want to use healthy products that they use frequently as a basis for enrichment with protein (Chapter 3). Most elderly do not display intentions to purchase and use such products, however, either because they do not feel the need to use functional foods or because they hold various negative inferences regarding functional foods, such as a high price or bad taste. Importantly, elderly consumers differ strongly in their wants, inferences and intentions, suggesting that segmentation of this population is warranted.
A narrative review reveals that there are various ways to segment the elderly consumer population, for example based on age, future time perspective or purchase behaviour, and every approach has its strengths and weaknesses (Chapter 4). Based on the objectives of a segmentation approach one can, however, make an informed decision regarding which segmentation base to use. In the functional food market, elderly consumers may best be segmented using a segmentation base on the food or product level (i.e. rather than the person level) that results in segments in which consumers have similar needs and wants, for example the attributes benefits that consumers seek. A segmentation study shows that using such a segmentation base results in segments that provide concrete instructions for the development of functional foods (Chapter 5). The resulting segments of elderly have unique preferences that do not necessarily reflect those of the average elderly consumer and thereby provide useful insights that can help increase our understanding of elderly consumers.
Segmentation also provides a basis for tailoring products to the needs and wants of elderly consumers. A segmentation study illustrates that such tailoring can increase elderly consumers’ willingness to try protein-enriched foods for the first time (i.e. trial purchase), as well as their willingness to use such products on a more regular basis (i.e. repeat purchase) (Chapter 5). For a small group of elderly, tailoring proves to be ineffective, however, as they categorically reject all types of protein-enriched foods presented to them. These elderly are relatively uninterested in the concept of functional foods, which may be due to negative inferences surrounding such products. Overcoming the activation of such negative inferences may be useful in motivating elderly consumers to use protein-enriched foods. A field study in a hospital setting shows that the implementation of a verbal prompt intervention that motivates consumers to make decisions without much can increase the consumption of protein (Chapter 6). By understanding and capitalizing on cognitive biases in human decision-making, interventions like these can motivate consumers to form consumption intentions even when they hold negative inferences about products or services.
Overall, this thesis shows that although elderly consumers share an age bracket they are strongly heterogeneous in their wants, inferences and intentions. This heterogeneity is robust, as it can even be observed when zooming in on decision-making regarding a specific product category (i.e. protein-enriched foods). Our understanding of the elderly consumer population increases by studying this heterogeneity, as it provides insights beyond those that apply to the group of elderly that reflect the average. In studying heterogeneity, it pays off to focus on bases that are predictive of behaviour while demographic characteristics like age provide only few insights. Industry and health institutions can also benefit from an increased understanding of the composition of the elderly population and how they make decisions. Such understanding may provide them with concrete instructions for the development and commercialization of products and services for this growing group of consumers.