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Danes content with the food they buy

Danes are generally content with the food they can buy in Danish supermarkets and with the food they eat. This is the conclusion of a study undertaken by the MAPP Centre at Aarhus University. The researchers have developed a quality index that measures food satisfaction and for which they divided consumers into five categories.

2015.03.23 | Janne Hansen

In general, Danes are satisfied with the food they can buy and the food they eat. Photo: Colourbox

Can you put food quality and consumer satisfaction into a formula? Apparently you can, because that is what researchers from the MAPP Centre at Aarhus University have done. They have developed an index that can be used to measure consumer perception of food quality and satisfaction with the food they buy and eat. The index combines food quality with consumer knowledge of food and cooking and the time consumers spend on food products and preparing meals.

The scientists have tested the index in a survey of consumer perception of food quality and they found that Danes are generally happy with the food they buy in supermarkets and with the food they eat. The satisfaction does, however, depend on how interested they are in shopping for groceries and in cooking and how good they are at preparing a meal. In this connection, the researchers divided the consumers into five categories. The Quality-conscious, The Unengaged, The Unconcerned, The Conservative and The Eco-conscious.

Five consumer types

The Quality-conscious: Use product information and shopping list when shopping. They like to try new products and see food shopping as rather something of a sport (24 per cent of consumers).

The Unengaged: Are not interested in food shopping and think of cooking as something you should get over and done with as quickly as possible (16 per cent of consumers).

The Unconcerned: Have a certain interest in cooking, but are not bothered whether the food is organic or contains preservatives or flavour enhancers (27 per cent of consumers).

The Conservative: Prefer the familiar dishes and are not keen on trying new things (12 per cent of consumers).

The Eco-conscious: Prefer to buy fresh produce instead of tinned or frozen goods and prefer produce without additives (22 per cent of consumers).

Food enjoyment is a broad concept

The concept of food quality has many facets. Some of the quality aspects are taste, origin, safety, animal welfare and health. To identify the consumers’ perception of this concept, the researchers used a wide variety of methods, including interviews, a questionnaire and data from scanners in a retail chain. The information is gathered in an index that will be further developed in the coming years. The study shows that the index should include both food quality and a number of other factors to determine people’s perception of food quality.

- You could, for example, expand the index to include social aspects, such as who you eat with and when. It will open up for a more precise analysis of what in particular affects the perception of and satisfaction with the quality of the food families with children eat, says research assistant Trine Mørk from the MAPP Centre at Aarhus University.

The index can also be used to study the development in the satisfaction with food quality. At the moment it does not look that bad.

- In the context of the current debate about Danes’ attitude to quality foods and cooking, we note that it’s not so bad. Most consumers are fairly happy with the food they buy and what they eat. Most consumers also have extensive knowledge and a fairly broad set of skills when it comes to cooking, says Trine Mørk. She points out, however, that while about half of consumers are very committed to food quality, there are just as many who are either unengaged or unconcerned with food shopping and cooking.

- It's probably possible to influence both food attitudes and cooking skills for part of this group, but it requires a long-term effort involving the food industry, retailers, government offices and educational institutions, says Trine Mørk.

Political ambition to promote better food habits

The background to the development of the index and measuring consumer satisfaction is that the knowledge on consumer perception of food quality is fragmented and outdated. With an ambition to promote the demand for and supply of high-quality food products based on well-documented information on consumption, perceptions and willingness to pay, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration asked Aarhus University to conduct the study as part of the agreement on the provision of research-based policy support between the university and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.

The results have been published in a report by DCA - Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture, Aarhus University. The report "Kvalitetsindeks 2014 – et instrument til kortlægning af fødevare-forbrugernes kvalitetsopfattelser" (Quality Index 2014 - an instrument for documenting consumer perception of food quality), DCA report no. 56, March 2015 can be downloaded here (in Danish).

For further information please contact: Research Assistant Trine Mørk, MAPP Centre, Aarhus University, email: tmork@badm.au.dk, telephone: +45 8716 6039

DCA