On October 3, 2022, the Brazilian group JBS, which produces beef, chicken and pork, announced the closure of its American branch dedicated to meat substitutes, two years after the launch of its first substitutes. The Brazilian company indicated that it is focusing on the Brazilian and European markets that seem more receptive to alternative meat products.
Therefore, understanding what drives consumer preferences and food choices is crucial for companies in the agri-food sector. However, these choices result from a complex process based on several factors such as the intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics of the product, the beliefs and knowledge of the consumer or even the context of consumption.
Read more: The responsible consumer still suffers from an overly negative image
Among the explanatory factors for food choices, in our research we were interested in taking into account the consequences of food to know: 1/ the extent to which consumers expect certain consequences when they choose food; and 2/ What are these consequences and can they be categorized for consumer classification status?
Consider future consequences
When an individual acts, does he do so with due regard to the future consequences that his action can generate, or, on the contrary, does he take into account only the immediate consequences? According to the literature, each individual tends to worry about the future consequences of his actions to varying degrees. the Consider future consequences (CFC) would be a relatively stable variable, a psychological disposition that can nevertheless evolve according to one’s living environment.
Specific CFC measures have been developed over the years, but the current measures do not make it possible to know the outcome(s) in question. Two consumers could have an identical score and consider very different consequences: one would think about the consequences for his health and the other would be motivated by the consequences for the environment.
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It is therefore not appropriate in marketing logic to treat them in the same way, that is, with the same arguments. So it seems useful to know what consequences we are talking about when we talk about the future consequences of one’s diet. We conducted a qualitative study to analyze this in more depth.
‘We’ve become toxic’
In our study, 28 participants with diverse profiles in terms of demographics and eating behaviors were interviewed. The results reported by participants fall into two categories: consequences for others And on himself.
In the category “consequences for others”the consequences for the environment are often cited:
“Today we depend on the planet’s reserves, we have become toxic to the planet, we produce badly, we extract badly.”
This shows how aware and sensitive consumers are to the environmental impact of their food choices. Trace the consequences for the condition of the animal:
“I don’t think any being on this earth deserves to not see the sun, and live within 3 metres2cut off your head”
Then comes the issue of social bonds and human relations, thus referring to the concept of “valence” (the act of eating together) of food but as a result of food choices. To a lesser extent, participants also mentioned the consequences of their food on a country’s economic conditions and employment, particularly emphasizing the complex nature of choices associated with distribution channels over employment. Finally, the consequences for the producers’ living conditions were cited.
within the category “self-consequences”the consequences for physical health are the most frequent:
“The apples you buy in the supermarket, you put them on the table for three months and they don’t move. On the other hand, you take them from your market gardener, after a week they are gone. In fact, we are extending the life expectancy of apples by shortening ours.”
Then come the consequences for aesthetics, weight, skin, mental health, well-being and finally on purchasing power:
“My consumption style is purely budgetary, the first reason is the budget aspect.”
Six consumer profiles
Building on this study, we conducted a cluster analysis that reveals six distinct consumer profiles:
– the few involved. This group doesn’t talk much on the subject and doesn’t seem to be much involved in food. They seem to be making their own food choices at the moment You are, take into account the direct consequences of food, in particular the need to satisfy their hunger. Thus, they consider little future consequences when choosing food.
– influencers. Their common point is to consider consequences for animals, but this can lead to different behaviours. Some claim that this is what led them to become a vegetarian or vegan. Others speak of a recent awareness of the animal issue (they reduce their meat consumption or pay attention to the meat consumed). The concept of ethics towards producers also appears among some who are sensitive to their working conditions.
Food gurus. This small group expresses concern about the consequences for others, such as the country’s economy, employment, or the environment. They want to influence those around them by setting a good example for their children so that they do not reproduce the same nutritional education pattern as their parents.
– the healthy ones. They are primarily interested in nutrition because of the effects it has on their bodies. Aesthetics is the most important outcome which is taken into account on a daily basis in their food choices. Secondly, they also care about the consequences for others, as if they were foraging for personal and then collective well-being, a healthy lifestyle for themselves, and then for others.
Read more: Nutri-Score, NOVA, Organic… How can you get better information on the “healthy” effects of food?
– anxiety. They state that they are concerned with many consequences and take them into account in their food choices. These are fundamental consequences for their physical health, sometimes due to health problems. Concerning the consequences for others, they mention almost all consequences, except those for animals.
– Unrestricted. They express themselves a lot, but it is more to announce the consequences that they do not take into account and this, in an unrestrained manner. They say they love to eat, like comfort food, but they say they don’t always care about what they eat or the consequences. They justify this by the need to relieve stress, enjoy life, and not worry about the contents of their plate. Taking care of their daily diet seems difficult and disproportionate to them.
Thus, it seems delusional that product or brand managers would want to create a perfect product that takes into account all the consequences and, in that sense, makes everyone agree.
Our research shows that they are numerous and sometimes contradictory (improving the living conditions of producers is difficult to reconcile with the purchasing power of the individual, for example) but above all that consumers themselves are differentiated according to those they give priority to. And you, what consumer profile would fit you best?