What can grocery basket data tell us about health consciousness?

School of Management, University of Texas at Dallas SM 32 Box 830688 Richardson, TX 75083-0688, United States
International Journal of Research in Marketing (Impact Factor: 1.71). 12/2008; 25(4):301-309. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijresmar.2008.05.001


Health-conscious consumers are a sought-after market segment by manufacturers and retailers alike. But how large is the health-conscious segment? How price sensitive is it? In addition, what are the influences of consumer demographic characteristics on a consumer's health consciousness? To answer these questions, we control for covariates such as price, distinguish health consciousness from intrinsic preferences, and assess purchases over multiple categories with multiple nutritional attributes. We estimate a multi-category brand choice model using purchase history of a large sample of households (1062) in ten commonly purchased grocery categories. We find that health-conscious households constitute 18% of the market and that the more health conscious a household is, the less price sensitive it is. We also show that the following household demographic characteristics have strong impacts on a household's health consciousness: household income, house ownership, employment status of male household head, education level of male household head, presence of young children in the household, and the ethnicity of the household.

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    • "Nevertheless, inducing behavioral changes is a difficult task, and a reversal of adiposity prevalence remains elusive (Marteau, Hollands, and Fletcher 2012; Swinburn et al. 2011). Despite a recent trend toward healthy eating behaviors (Prasad, Strijnev, and Zhang 2008), many consumers still tend to overconsume energy-dense foods because of two factors that work in combination: (1) foods that are " unhealthy " are widely associated with being tasty (e.g., Raghunathan, Naylor, and Hoyer 2006), and (2) taste is the main driver of food decisions (e.g., Tepper and Trail 1998). To help consumers make the necessary changes and to market healthy food products more effectively, policy makers and food producers should find ways to reduce the unhealthy = tasty intuition (UTI) and to offset its implications for food decision making. "
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    ABSTRACT: The goal conflict between short-term indulgence and long-term health considerations is at the heart of unhealthy food choices, and thus, a key contributor to growing adiposity prevalence. Policy makers often attempt to promote healthy eating behaviors by raising consumers’ health consciousness. Given that previous health campaigns have fallen short of expectations, this article examines the potential of health consciousness to resolve the so-called unhealthy = tasty intuition (UTI). Study 1 explores whether health consciousness attenuates belief in the UTI and its detrimental consequences for food choice and body mass. Study 2 applies the Implicit Association Test to disentangle the intuition’s implicit and explicit processes. Results show that health consciousness operates only via cognitively controlled processes. Using real food products, Study 3 analyzes how health consciousness colors the influence of composition and labeling on tastiness and healthiness perceptions. The studies jointly demonstrate that the UTI partly works implicitly and independently of health consciousness. Hence, the obesity epidemic should be addressed through concerted actions that include policy makers’ health communication and the food industry’s product development.
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    • "The policy effort has proven successful: Since the late 1970s, nutrition-related behaviors have emerged as consumers' most frequent activity to stay healthy (Harris & Guten, 1979), because they believe food consumption is a vital element to taking care of themselves ( ¨ Ostberg, 2003). Retailers and manufacturers of food products in turn eagerly position themselves as health-friendly to target health-conscious consumers (Leeflang & van Raaij, 1995; Prasad, Strijnev, & Zhang, 2008). Public opinion generally associates being healthy with being thin, such that being thin seems normative for citizens and employees (Madden & Chamberlain, 2010; Nickson, Warhurst, & Dutton, 2005; Smeesters, Mussweiler, & Mandel, 2010), though the gap between this cultural norm and biological reality is widening (D'Alessandro & Chitty, 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Derived from previous research on social influence on food consumption and social comparison theory, this article examines the effect of service employees’ appearance on consumers’ food choice using an experimental study, involving a video manipulation and eye-tracking technique. The video shows a menu being proffered by a waitress whose degree of apparent healthiness varies (healthy, overweight, unhealthy lifestyle). The menu contains both healthy and unhealthy meal alternatives. The analysis of participants’ eye movements demonstrated that exposure to the overweight employee did not stimulate greater (i.e., earlier or longer) attention to unhealthy meal alternatives, whereas exposure to the employee who displayed an unhealthy lifestyle did. These findings have social and managerial implications: The postulated stigma according to which the presence of overweight others encourages unhealthy eating appears questionable. Service providers that might secretly hire according to body weight have no grounds to do so. In contrast, employees signaling an unhealthy lifestyle through their style choices prompt patrons to pay more attention to unhealthy meal alternatives. Food service providers might want to take this factor into consideration and actively manage the aspects that can be altered by simple measures.
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    Preview · Article · Dec 2008 · International Journal of Research in Marketing
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