New Trends in Consumer Needs: Functional Foods in the European Market
- Pp. 31-45 (15)Azzurra Annunziata and Riccardo Vecchio
Over the last decade foods have not been intended only to satisfy hunger and provide necessary nutrients but also to prevent nutrition-related diseases and improve the physical and mental well-being of consumers. Hence healthier food products have entered the global markets with force in the past few years and rapidly gained market shares. The food industry has reacted to this trend by developing a growing variety of new products with health-related claims and images. However, due to limited consumer knowledge and awareness of the health effects of newly developed functional ingredients, there are strong needs for communication activities. The role of information is crucial since consumers cannot perceive the benefit directly from the product, unlike taste and other sensory characteristics. The type of information and trust in it regarding the effect of a particular product on health represent additional factors behind the success of functional foods. Based on these considerations this chapter offers an overview of the functional food (FF) market in Europe and ascertains the opportunities for further expansion of this segment. Consumer behaviour towards FFs was analyzed through a quantitative survey conducted on 400 Italian food shoppers. Our findings reveal that respondents are confused due to the ambiguity of what FF products are, and that consumers perceive products that are intrinsically healthy such as yogurt, cereals and juice, as preferable and credible carriers of FFs. Moreover, use of principal components analysis highlighted the key role played by the perception of healthiness in determining shoppers’ attitudes towards FF.