Would lowering the price of healthy food increase demand/consumption? : A prospective qualitative and quantitative study to gain insight into consumer interest in the case of healthy food, and the recent links to the increase in overweight and obesity to poor diet
Background: Overweight and Obesity related illnesses place a great burden on society. Health care costs in terms of diseases linked to overweight and obesity continue to rise steadily. What we understand is that overweight and obesity is preventable and reversible. Foods we purchase and consume have a large impact on whether we become overweight or much worse obese. Looking at food purchasing patterns we assumed that most people purchase their food either because of taste, price, availability/ convenience, or family customs/ habits. We understand there is a tough market in which foods high in energy density such as processed foods, French fries, breaded chicken, donuts, cookies, and chips are usually the most inexpensive because of their cheaper ingredients they contain such as high amounts of salt, sugar, and fat. Low energy density but high in nutrient value foods such as fruits, rice, fish, vegetables, wholegrain breads, cereals, and pasta’s tend be priced much higher. Consumers are faced with then either satisfying hunger and risking health, or satisfying health and risking hunger. Shouldn’t consumers also have a choice of good health through affordable healthy food? Let’s examine whether lowering the cost of healthy food increases demand/ consumption.
Methods: My research methodology was conducted using both Qualitative and Quantitative methods. In search of the answers for my research question I put together a questionnaire. This Questionnaire based survey was to be made available online. I chose this method since it was more adaptable in order to meet the still present demand for information to be available and present through I.T (Information technology) is some form. Conducting the survey in this manner would allow me to send the link in a short moment or at some point in the future if the respondent did not wish to participate right at the moment when participation was offered. This method was also used since personal questions such as income, living situation, age, and even education were asked. Almost 97% of questions were close ended in which the remaining 3% were open ended. A potential bias of me being present by doing this questionnaire as an interview and then collecting the data could have put pressure on respondents to answer in a form that satisfied the interviewer, so again this is another reason why I chose against asking the questions from the survey in an interview setting. The negative aspect of this is that I would not be present to explain the question in person had there been a misunderstanding of any question or response option, so the questionnaire was solely left to the participants interpretation. The inclusion time frame for the participants was from February 9th 2012 and would run until April 1st 2012.
Results: The survey was sent to 196 potential participants in whom again 76 completed. The response rate therefore was 38.7% (76/ 196). Statistical analysis of data was conducted using SPSS statistical package for the social sciences. Questionnaire responses were compiled also by the online survey in terms of frequencies and percentages. Further analysis was done on price related questions that have a connection to the research question: Does lowering the price of healthy food increase demand? In this process, data was dichotomized into more precise groups of either being in favor of the lowering the price of healthy food or not. This was done to make the results more explicit.
It was shown that in general participants in the survey were willing to buy the healthy alternative if it was priced the same or less than the unhealthy alternative (Question 19 from survey). We have to know that this response is what participants say and what they would actually practice could differ. One observation that was made after examining a bit further was when we gave participants an actual choice in the survey like choosing between a healthy option such as granola bar, smoothie, chicken wrap vs the unhealthy alternative soda, chocolate bar, or burger we didn’t see the same amount in favor of the healthy alternative. According to those who stated they would be according to question 19, 89.47% were in favor, 8% neutral, and 3% not in favor of the healthy alternative. Then again given our scenarios it could be argued that participants lost favoritism to the healthy item possibly due to not being given a good choice. It is possible that they still would have chosen another healthy alternative but just not our options of chicken salad, smoothie, fruit juice, or granola bar.
Conclusion: One strategy such as lowering the price of healthy food is not enough to see major effects eliciting consumers to demand more. Strategies need to come from all angles that support lowering the price of healthy food. There needs to be awareness and education campaigns that run concurrent encouraging, informing, and reminding people of why it important to eat and live in a healthy manner. We can look to the questionnaire which gathered the data on more information needed. According to our survey 69.7 % who participated said they would buy more healthy items if they were better informed on what is healthy or not. In general as society we still lack in depth knowledge