A study published in Appetite interviewed 1000 Italian consumers to understand what factors they looked at to determine the quality of food products and consequently, their purchase.
Results showed that the hedonic aspect of food and the pleasure of eating well was still a crucial factor for Italian consumers, “for whom culinary traditions are still very important”.
Equally important for consumers were the production processes and place of production of food products, it said. “The interest shown by consumers in the origin and place of production of food has grown, especially with regard to European Quality Food Certification products,” said the paper.
“They seem to be in line with the results of other research which identified a close relationship between the quality of a food product and the reason for its purchase,” it added.
The perception of quality based on the cost and brand elements followed behind. Though the three factors had different degrees of importance and priority among the consumers, they were often all used at the same time, the report added.
Communication is key
The report said identifying the right target audiences and communicating clearly to consumers was the key “to building, sustaining and enhancing over time the reputation and appreciation of a food product.”
Communication should also be used by institutions concerned with public health protection to provide consumers with the appropriate tools to be able to assess the safety and quality of food products, “based on knowledge of scientific evidence…the real risks associated with food products alongside their subjective perceptions.”
Keeping an eye on “added value”
“Today the competition in the food business involves not only safety control and efficiency but also the ability to add value,” said the report.
This concept of adding value was strictly customer oriented, aimed at increasing consumers’ perception of the product’s quality. Therefore, the report added that it was important to ensure that, “along with the food product itself, customers should be offered an appropriate flow of related services… to help them develop a clearer perception of the product’s material and immaterial characteristics.”
The results of the investigations should pave the way for further studies it added, especially around the “limited interest shown in the brand and cost of the products as quality indicators”, it said.
Vol: 89, doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.02.014
“The perception of food quality. Profiling Italian consumers”
Authors: G. Mascarelloa, A. Pintoa, N. Pariseb, S. Crovatoa and L. Ravarottoa