Academic journal article Agricultural Economics Review

Segmenting Albanian Consumers According to Olive Oil Quality Perception and Purchasing Habits

Academic journal article Agricultural Economics Review

Segmenting Albanian Consumers According to Olive Oil Quality Perception and Purchasing Habits

Article excerpt

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to analyze consumer purchasing behaviour and preference for olive oil, in the Albanian context of a weakly enforced public and private quality assurance system. A consumer survey was administered at retail outlets in Tirana. Data analysis was performed using descriptive statistics and a two-step cluster analysis to identify homogeneous groups within the sample. The results indicate that most consumers perceive the quality of olive oil they consume to be very high and tend to rely on and trust in the producers/suppliers of the product, rather than public institutions as a guarantee of the quality and safety of olive oil purchased.

Keywords: consumer behavior, olive oil, food quality, two-step cluster analysis, Albania

Introduction

The olive and olive oil industry is one of the most important sectors in Albania's agriculture, with almost 1/3 of the farms in the country or 118,000 farms being involved in this type of production activity (MoAFCP, 2009). Within a 10 year period, between 2000 and 2010, the demand for olive oil increased and the latest FAO figures on the supply of olive oil indicate that in 2009, Albanians consumed 0.6 kg of olive oil per capita per year (Zhllima et al, 2012). However, this is far less than the average consumption in other Mediterranean countries where olive oil is very popular, such as Greece (14.9 kg/capita), Italy (13.8 kg/capita) and Spain (11.5 kg/capita), but quite similar to consumption patterns of other Western Balkans countries, such as Montenegro (0.5 kg/capita), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (0.9 kg/capita) and Serbia (0.1 kg/capita) (FAO, 2012).

One of the key challenges facing this industry, as in the whole of the Albanian agrifood system, is the issue of food quality and safety enforcement (WB, 2007; Imami et al., 2011). Recently, the olive and olive oil industry in Albania has been studied, with a focus both on the analysis of supply (DSA, 2010; Skreli et al., 2009; Mane and Kapaj, 2009) and on consumer preferences for olive oil and table olives (Chan-Halbrendt et al., 2010; Zhllima et al, 2011). However, consumer studies have been focused mainly on consumer preferences for various product attributes only, without exploring consumer perception of the overall quality of the olive oil they consume, and the types of quality assurance used. The aim of this work is to explore these understudied aspects of this product.

The objective of this research is to analyze consumer purchasing behavior and preferences for olive oil, in a context of a weakly enforced public and private food safety and quality assurance system. Quality and safety are often considered separately, but in this context food safety can be considered the most basic aspect of food quality, and thus in this study these two aspects were considered simultaneously. Food safety is of important public interest, but it is also a highly relevant quality attribute for marketers, traders, and consumers (Canavari et al., 2010). This research aims to provide answers to the following research questions:

* Which are the main signals of a (perceived) quality guarantee for consumers?

* Which are the strategies adopted by consumers to obtain higher quality olive oil?

* How do consumer socio-demographic factors affect consumer perceptions and behavior?

This study, focused on consumer behaviour regarding olive oil can benefit Albanian olive oil producers and policy-makers, to initiate and facilitate more efficient marketing strategies for the private sector and to support government policies in the industry, particularly pertaining to quality guarantee strategies. An outcome of the analysis was the classification of consumers into clusters based on their perception of olive oil quality, consumption patterns and socio-demographic variables. These clusters may represent market segments to be targeted by producers and traders with differential and appropriate marketing strategies. …

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