Meaning of food and consumer eating behaviors

Michail D. Kokkoris*, Olga Stavrova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Prior research suggests that food is embedded in a system of meanings. Yet, little is known about how the different meanings people attribute to food affect their food consumption behavior. Results of a nationally representative survey in Austria reveal how food meanings (sacred, moral, health, social, and aesthetic, assessed with the Meaning of Food in Life Questionnaire) relate to a wide range of food consumption patterns (health-conscious, discerning, indulgent, and functional). First, health-conscious eating behaviors (e.g., following a healthy diet, frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables, buying seasonal and regional foods, cooking, following medical recommendations about nutrition) were driven by the social and moral meanings of food. Second, discerning eating behaviors (e.g., buying organic products, shopping at small stores or local markets, avoiding meat products, prioritizing quality over quantity) were predicted by the moral meaning of food. Third, indulgent eating behaviors (e.g., consuming salty and sweet snacks and ready-made meals, eating on the go, overeating) were driven by the aesthetic meaning of food and a lowered importance of the health meaning of food. Finally, functional eating behaviors (e.g., consuming functional foods such as dietary supplements, enriched foods or “light” products, paying attention to food labels, buying groceries with a shopping list, buying groceries online) were driven by the sacred meaning of food and a lowered appreciation of the aesthetic meaning of food. Taken together, these findings suggest that food meaning can serve as a useful framework to understand different patterns of food consumption, generate novel insights and provide actionable recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104343
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Volume94
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Consumption
  • Food
  • Health
  • Meaning
  • Morality
  • Spirituality

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