People always mentioned foods are of high influences on the society. The purpose of this essay is to evaluate the influences from food in cases of the food safety, food scares, food taboos and genetically modified foods on the society in terms of consumer attitude, while those influences will be further illustrated specific examples.
Food is the substance that can be obtained by human in forms of eating and drinking, and it is mainly for nutrition or pleasure of human in purpose. It is said to be an essential component of human since nutrition has to be daily obtained as the physiological needs (Maslow, 1954). Nevertheless, foods are diverse and broad developed by different cooking method, practices, preferences and traditions, and the corresponding cuisine experiences have been further developed upon the higher level in the Maslow (1954) hierarchy of needs, like self esteem, achievement and showing respect of and by others. Thus, with the advanced technology on delivering of food sources and on the food production process, foods do have a great influence to the society nowadays.
The remaining of this essay will be divided into six main parts, the introduction of consumer attitude, the corresponding influence of food safety, the corresponding influence of food scares, the corresponding influence of food taboos, the corresponding influence of Genetically Modified foods, and finally the conclusion.
In this section, Introduction of consumer attitudes will be presented, and the corresponding influences on consumer attitudes from food safety, food scares, food taboos and Genetically Modified food will be evaluated and further illustrated with specific examples.
2.1 Consumer attitudes
Nowadays, consumers are of freedom to selectively receive the certain information from marketing communication, besides, Kotler et al. (2006) have mentioned that the behaviour of consumers is a rational behaviour with goal and purpose, as a result, the consumers are capable to make their preferred purchase decisions as they are also of freedom to do so. Within the consumer decision making process, the attitudes from the consumers towards the products are playing an important role in making purchase decision. However, the consumer attitudes are highly variable as there is an important premise – Consumer hyper-choice within different markets.
According to Solomon (2009, p.350), Consumer Hyper-choice has been referred as “a condition where the large number of available options”. The modern customers within different markets are necessary to face with a lot of choices. As the food production process and marketing information communication channels are really well developed nowadays, there are more and more alternatives for the consumer to evaluate different features and attributes before making the purchase decision. Hence, the consumer attitudes are very easy to be influenced to change by different factors from the products.
Gamble (1988) has stated that the more the extent that consumers are involved in the product consumption, the greater the expectation they will be of, and thus the consumer attitudes towards the products will be relatively more variable upon the influence of the product factors as food consumption and dining experience are so important to the publics in modern society. Among those factors, the author is going to evaluate the influence of food safety, food scares, food taboos and Genetically Modified food on the consumer attitudes on the following parts in this essay.
2.2 Food Safety and its influences on consumer attitudes
First, the Pan-European Conference on Food Safety and Quality in 2004 (Pan-European Conference on Food Safety and Quality, 2004) have mentioned that consumers are of strong attitude towards their food consumption that they are really concerned about the food safety. Besides, Frewer et al., (1993) have stated that there were already increasing attention to the food safety issues from the media since 1990s. Nevertheless, de Jonge et al. (2004) have mentioned that the corresponding increased attention to the issues of food safety may have a negative influence on the consumer attitudes as well as their perceptions towards the food products.
From the consumers’ perspective on food safety, they do concerned much about the government’s risk assessment and management on Food safety, and they concerned about the quality of the actors in food chain, for example, farmers (primary production), manufacturers and retailers (secondary production). The confidence on the food safety of the parts of the food delivery chain above mentioned is essentially important for building up the positive attitudes towards the food products from the consumers. Besides, there are several consumer studies (Miles et al., 2004) revealed that the food safety is concluded and admitted to be a very important issue in society by the consumers within the studies.
For example, the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (Appendix1) are authoritative procedures for every food and beverage offering company to ensure their hygiene is up to the standard for maintaining the food safety, and this is also authoritative to the consumers’ confidence and hence their attitude towards the food products under HACCP would be positively influenced. The consumer studies has also revealed that because of the food production chain is so long and complex nowadays, consumers think that the issue of the risk management and communication practices are relatively important in case of food safety (Miles et al., 2004).
Moreover, consumers recently concerned not only about the safety of the food, but also about the healthiness of the food. Poor diet is taking an important part on causing death and morbidity in forms of heart disease and obesity (National Institute of Health, 2009). Hence, the consumers are having positive attitudes to the food products that are using relatively healthy ingredients. In other words, the food products with healthy ingredients would positively influence the consumer attitudes in society.
2.3 Food Scares and its influences on consumer attitudes
In the 1970s, food safety was not a significant concern from political perspective, societal perspective, even scientific perspective (Cooter and Fulton, 2001). When the food safety of the food products is not up to standard, there may be a serious outcome – food contamination. As the final outcome of the consumers under food contamination is possible to be fatal, the large scale of the food contamination will bring about the food scare in society. Since healthy problem is the most concern of the consumers, their attitude towards the relative food products will be seriously negatively influenced. In other words, the food scare will let the consumers lost their confidence to the food products. When it comes to the specific examples to the food scare, there were several cases over the world.
According to Purvis (2004), there is one of the earliest recorded food safety incidents happen in AD944, Southern part of France, in which about 40,000 people died of ergotism – food contamination of ergot. Besides, there are still some high profile of food contamination cases took place in Western countries in 1990s (since 1990s, food safety has been increasingly noticed as above mentioned), one in Australia (Food Regulation Review Committee,1998) and another one in the UK (Adams, 1995).
Although technology has been advanced nowadays (with the food safety has been highly noticed and corresponding policies has been applied), there are still several food scares, such as, the noodles contamination in Indonesia 2005 and Vietnam in 2007; the contaminated milk scandal in China in 2008. The above mentioned food scare has largely and negatively affected the consumers attitudes towards the corresponding products (The credit of the corresponding products has been lost for their consumer after the food scare took place.).
2.3 Food Taboos and its influences on consumer attitudes
For the Food Taboos, there are some foods and drinks which people prevent from consuming based on the religious or cultural reasons. For example, the people who are Buddhists are always obeyed to prevent from consuming any food containing any forms of beef since cow/ox hold a sacred place in Buddhism; the people who are Muslims are always obeyed to prevent from consuming any food containing any forms of pork as Muslims think that the pigs are considered as “unclean”. Therefore, the attitudes of the Buddhism or Muslim consumers towards the food product which contains any forms of beef or pork will be totally negative and will not plan to make any purchases respectively.
2.4 Genetically Modified Food and its influences on consumer attitudes
Genetically Modified Food is the foods which are modified radically modified through the genetic engineering. The genetic engineering technique is applied to transfer genetic material (with desired characteristics) from one source to another in order to create different variants (genetically different species) (Business Dictionary, 2009). In case of the food product, the variants which may cause better productivity or quality will be adopted for the benefits of business perspective.
For evaluating the extent that Genetically Modified foods have on the consumer attitudes, several authors have pointed out that the attitudes from the consumers towards Genetically Modified food are determined by: 1) the perception of risk; 2) the perception of benefits (Grunett, 2001); 3) General attitudes from the publics, 4) knowledge of consumers on the GM food; and 5) the consumers’ cultural background (Hoban, 1999). However, besides the benefits from business perspective, there is a main concern of Genetically Modified Foods for the public in society – the uncertainty of the long term effect of Genetically Modified food on the human, food chains and the environment.
Hence, people do not perceive well the Genetically Modified food generally. For the Genetically Modified food, Dale (2001) has pinpointed that consumers mainly perceived potential risks to human health and the environment. Moreover, Bonny (2001) has stated that most of the European consumers do not have a particularly positive attitude towards Genetically Modified Food. Additionally, Friends of Earth (2006) have stated that Genetically Modified food are referred to be kind of food contamination and they have pointed out the needs for controlling the Genetically Modified Foods.
When it comes to the extent that how Genetically Modified Foods influence the consumer attitudes, there is a specific example. As every marketers know that, the positive branding power do have strong positive influence to the corresponding business performance in forms of the better consumer attitudes and increased sales revenue. However, in case of the GM foods, Deliza et al. (1999) have found that there is only a small positive contribution from the good branding power to the consumer attitudes and purchase intention in the UK market. Thus, it means the consumer attitudes towards the Genetically Modified Foods are highly negatively affected even can not be compensated or overcome by the branding power.
This essay has introduced the consumer attitudes which are under the assumptions of rational behaviour and the consumers are of freedom to choose and make their own decisions. The consumer attitudes are highly variable with two main evidences: 1) as there are many choices and alternatives in the market for the consumers to choose; 2) as foods are very important component for human life, the expectations for the products are very high as well. Afterwards, the influence of Food Safety has been evaluated and illustrated by the examples with the high importance of the diet and it is noted that the healthiness of the food products are also concerned by the modern consumers. Then, the influence of Food Scares has been evaluated and illustrated with examples in which the serious outcome of food scares – fatal, are strongly influencing the consumer attitudes.
The influence of Food Taboos has also been evaluated and illustrated by the examples of the habits of Buddhists and Muslim. Finally, the influence of Genetically Modified foods has been evaluated and illustrated as the main concern of the Genetically Modified foods – uncertainty of the long term effect of the Genetically Modified foods on human, food chains and the environment. To be concluded, the issues related to the food are really of high influence to the society, especially to the consumer attitudes. Hence, the food safety assessment and monitoring from the government and the food offering company should be maintained in very well form in order to raise the confidence of the consumer and to build up more positive consumer attitudes for the food business in society.