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Methodological insights to understand the effects of context on consumer hedonic evaluation of food products

  • Galiñanes plaza, Adriana
Publication Date
Jul 04, 2019
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Environmental factors modulate consumers’ perception and in turn, consumer evaluation of food in a given context, either directly or through context-induced beliefs and expectations. However, food products are usually evaluated in standardized conditions in an attempt to neutralize possible context effects on consumer evaluation. This questions the generalization of such measures to more natural consumption contexts.The aim of this research was to examine the conditions under which context affects consumer evaluation of food products. This work is grounded in Prospect Theory, which considers the effects of context on judgement through the notion of reference points.The first objective was to understand how consumers’ experiences and subsequent product evaluations are influenced by consumers’ representations about food in different consumption contexts. A qualitative study (12 focus groups; N =86) revealed that consumers’ beliefs and expectations towards a particular context are intimately associated to different types of products and culinary methods, and that external factors have a different weight depending on the consumption context.The second objective was to understand how consumers’ hedonic responses in natural consumption contexts may differ depending on the type of evaluation task. The hedonic responses of products with different degrees of culinary preparation (bread = control; pizza = homemade, industrial and mixed) were compared (N = 457) between two different tasks in a student cafeteria. The results showed that multicomponent products subjected to a different degrees of culinary preparation (homemade pizza) were indeed more sensitive to the type of evaluation task compared to more standardized products (bread).The last objective of the thesis was to test hypotheses based on Prospect Theory to explain contextual influences on consumers' food evaluation. Two experiments compared hedonic evaluations in (i) two contexts (CLT and restaurant; N= 283), in blind and informed conditions about the degree of culinary preparation of a product (ham-olive cake); and (ii) in one context (restaurant; N = 114) in informed conditions about the degree of culinary preparation and origin of the ingredients (quiche); where consumers’ beliefs and expectations towards the food served were modified. Results showed that the effects of external factors could be reduced through careful control of consumers’ beliefs and expectations in a given context.This thesis contributes to the understanding of context effects on consumer hedonic evaluation and it proposes a theoretical framework to investigate those effects by means of reference points. The results could be valuable to develop guidelines for industrials and researchers using hedonic evaluations to include context adequately at each stage of product development.

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