Identifying and modelling psychological predictors of intention to consume functional foods
What people eat influences their susceptibility to disease, yet many consumers within the
Western World are consuming inappropriate diets. One approach to facilitating the
consumption of a healthy diet has been the development of so-called "Functional Foods"
(foods that provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients they contain). The
ultimate aim of the thesis was to model current psychological predictors of intention to
consume functional foods.
A mixed method approach was utilised. Qualitative (one-to-one interviews) and quantitative
(questionnaire) exploratory studies were used to inform a larger qualitative study (focus
groups). Emergent key information was then used to inform a large-scale questionnaire and
structural equation modelling was used to identify the predictors of intention.
The interview study highlighted the important issues surrounding functional foods. The small
questionnaire determined the further research on a) conditions important to consumers and b)
conditions that varied along a perceived genetic scale (Alzheimer's disease, Cardio Vascular
Disease and Stress). The focus groups highlighted four design rules for the successful
development of functional food ('inversion', `subterfuge', `inclusiveness' and `authenticity')
and three key segments of the population ('pro-science', `conditionalists', and `negatives').
The final study modelled the three health conditions (Alzheimer's disease, Cardio Vascular
Disease and Stress) and three preventative health behaviours (eating functional food, a
healthy diet or doing more exercise). Multi-dimensional Health Locus of Control and
perceived hazard characteristics were modelled as predictors of risk perception. The main
predictors of risk perception differed significantly by health condition. Intentions for the three
preventative health behaviours were modelled using a Theory of Planned Behaviour
framework. Good predictive utility was demonstrated, which was further improved by
expansion of the model.
Output from the research could be used to inform both psychological theory and the design of
future communication initiatives. Findings are discussed with respect to practical and
methodological implications and directions for future research.