Food is an integral part of our society and necessary for survival
Lately, new kinds of food, so-called functional food, have been developed and launched in the market place. They provide a novel approach to the idea of healthy eating by linking a single product component to a certain health effect in a single product. This research focuses on evaluating the consumption of functional food in respect to citizens' lifestyle as well as cultural background. The central problem statement of this study is: What is the relationship between cultural background, lifestyle, and functional food consumption in the Netherlands?
Lifestyle in this research is specifically linked to food using the food-related lifestyle instrument developed by Grunert & Brunso (1993). Citizens are segmented in one of the following food-related lifestyle segments (1) the Careless food consumer segment, (2) the Uninvolved food consumer segment, (3) the Rational food consumer segment, (4) the Conservative food consumer segment, and (5) the Adventurous food consumer segment. Citizens in the Netherlands with a Turkish background are interviewed and compared with citizens with a Dutch background in order to reveal cultural differences in lifestyle choice and functional food consumption.
Hypotheses regarding the relationship between the three concepts were based on a literature study and empirically investigated. The assumption that membership of a particular food-related lifestyle segment relates to the consumption of functional food was not confirmed in this research. The expectation that citizens’ cultural background influences membership of a particular segment was confirmed; however this was found in other segments than initially expected on the basis of literature. The fact that the respondents of this research are university students is a possible explanation of this outcome. Students with a Turkish background are probably not representative of the Turkish population in the Netherlands.
Whether a relation exists between cultural background and the consumption of functional food could not be funded theoretically, because literature did not offer substantial information. The empirical research revealed –surprisingly- that respondents with a Turkish cultural background consumed significantly more functional food than those with a Dutch cultural background. It is reasonable to assume that respondents with a Turkish background in this study belong to the part of the Turkish population in the Netherlands which is relatively modern, integrated and keen on development. The sample used for this study was taken from students, studying at the Vrije Universiteit in the period between May 5 and 20, 2006. Respondents were split in two groups based on their place of birth and that of their parents. The survey consisted of 77 questions, including 69 questions from the Food- Related Lifestyle instrument developed by Grunert & Brunso (1993), plus questions related to the consumption of functional food and for profiling respondents’ cultural background. Several statistical tests were carried out to evaluate the relation between different explanatory variables, including demographics, on the consumption of functional food.
Given the limits of this research, the results indicate that segmenting consumers into a particular foodrelated lifestyle does not significantly affect the consumption of functional food. Cultural background, however, has proven to influence/impact the segmentation of consumers into a particular food-related lifestyle. In addition, cultural background does influence the consumption of functional food. The outcomes of this study suggest that citizens with a Turkish background are a relevant target group. Strategies to promote functional food, should not only be focused on health aspects of food, but also include cultural values.