Consumers' Use of Recommended Food Buying Practices

Article excerpt

Consumers' Use of Recommended Food Buying Practices

For decades consumer educators have been recommending practices that promise to reduce food costs, increase satisfaction with food choices, and improve dietary quality. They have recommended such measures as checking unit prices for different package sizes, examining ingredient labels, and making a shopping list before going to the store. However, little attention has been given to the extent to which consumers have taken this advice or to their reasons for doing so. Food shopping practices, which have been recommended frequently in the consumer information and education literature, have been identified in a recent study by Friedman and Rees (1988). The study reported here extends the Friedman and Rees analysis by examining consumers' acceptance of nine practices that were among those recommended most frequently.

Initially this study examined the reported frequency of use of these practices. Next, underlying dimensions of the practices were investigated using factor analysis. This study then focused on patterns in use of the recommended practices. Cluster analysis was used to group consumers who were similar in their use of the nine practices. The identification of usage clusters serves several purposes. When one looks at a cluster of consumers who are using a particular set of practices, assessment of their motives and their overall strategy becomes easier. The identification of clusters of consumers using particular sets of practices along with an understanding of their motives makes it possible to target consumer education and information efforts more effectively.

PREVIOUS RESEARCH

Grocery Shopper Surveys

The annual consumer surveys of the Food Marketing Institute (Opinion Research Corporation 1989) examine a number of aspects of grocery shopping behavior. A few recommended practices have been included among the behaviors and attitudes investigated. Cross-tabulations in the 1989 report suggested that older women in low income households were more likely to say they looked for newspaper ads on bargains and specials and compared prices between supermarkets. Older shoppers with a household member on a medically restricted diet were more likely to read label information on ingredients and nutrition. While these results are of interest, a more comprehensive approach involving a full range of recommended practices would be useful for consumer education and policy purposes.

Grocery Shopper Typologies

A small group of past studies has focused on broad motivational factors underlying shopping behavior or on factors underlying store preferences or store choices (Westbrook and Black 1985). The concerns identified in these studies resemble those that might find expression in particular food buying practices. The underlying concerns that motivate store choices or preferences may also motivate the use of particular shopping practices.

Two studies based on interviews concerning food shopping are of particular relevance. The typology created by Williams, Painter, and Nicholas (1978) was based on questions about the perceived attributes of the respondent's preferred grocery store. On the basis of cluster analysis they identified four groups.

* Apathetic Shoppers who generally had negative reactions to their preferred store's characteristics.

* Convenience Shoppers who rated their preferred stores high on location and parking, but unfavorably on prices.

* Price Shoppers who perceived their stores' prices favorably, but judged the stores inconvenient.

* Involved Shoppers who judged prices, quality, convenience, and stores' advertising favorably.

Darden and Ashton (1974) developed their typology from respondents' ratings preferred store attributes. Their study is based on a relatively small sample of middle-class suburban housewives, which may have restricted the range of their results. …

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