Perceived food quality and healthiness : integrating means-end chain and conjoint analysis, with emphasis on olive oil extrinsic cues
Today's consumer attitude and behaviour are increasingly driven by quality, safety and health consciousnessF. rom the producer viewpoint, quality control has evolved from an efficiency challenge to a tremendous opportunity by building competitive advantages through pursuing relationships based on an integrated chain approach with quality guarantees. To succeed in today's competitive agri-food marketplace, two options are available: organise production more efficiently and work more consumeroriented in order to meet consumer requirements. During recent years, several concepts like Organic and PDO/PGI labels, and the ISO and HACCP schemes, embodied into the wider Supply Chain Management, or Total Quality Management initiatives, have been introduced. All these concepts share the objectives of adding value to the entire chain, of releasing competitive advantages and a better performance of the chain through increasedr esponsivenessto consumern eeds,w ants and demands. The research at hand addresses questions related to collecting valuable information at consumer level, since this is the prerequisite for the practical application of the aforementioned concepts by industries such as the olive oil industry. The work focuses on assessing both the quality perception of olive oil and the attitude of consumers to olive oil quality assurance schemes. The central theme of the study is the domestic consumer as an alternative source of profit and competitiveness for the high quality olive oil firms. This is be achieved through the identification of a quality and healthconscious urban segment and the explanation of its purchasing motives and behaviour by relating quality olive oil attributes to its personal values. Instead of following a "positivistic" way of clearly presenting the research hypotheses, a description of the wider environment surrounding the quality-conscious consumer internationally is chosen. In this mostly "phenomenological" way, ideas about the quality consumer are implied through induction from data. The methodological nature of the study is two-dimensional. The horizontal "conjoint analysis" dimension is used to quantitatively prove the findings of the vertical "laddering method" qualitative dimension, which develops quality consumers' psychographic profile and predicts purchase behaviour.