The Integrative Approach: The Total Food Quality Model

The distinction between search, experience, and credence characteristics, the multiattribute approach, and the means-end chain model, are important elements in understanding subjective quality perception, and have been major inputs to the total food

Four Types of Food Quality. Source

Figure Four Types of Food Quality. Source: Brunso et al. 2002.

quality model for analyzing the quality perception process for food products, which is presented below.

The integrative approaches try to integrate the other approaches into a unified framework for the analysis of quality perception process for food products (Marreiros & Ness, 2009). Two of the most notable cases of this integration are the Quality Guidance Model (QGM) of Steenkamp and Van Trijp (1996), and the total food quality model (TFQM) of Grunert et al. (1996). The TFQM (Brunso et al., 2002) is based on the concept that the food quality is divided into four types, as shown in Figure (Grunert, Larsen, Madsen & Baadsgaard, 1995).

Product-oriented quality covers all the aspects of the physical product that together give a precise description of the specific food product. Examples of product quality may be fat percentage and muscle size of meat, cell content in milk, and alcohol strength of beer.

Process-oriented quality covers the way the food product has been produced, such as without pesticides, without growth inhibition, by organic production, according to regulations about animal welfare, and so on. Descriptions based on these aspects provide information about the procedure used to make the product, and these aspects may not necessarily have any effect on the product's physical properties.

The third quality type is quality control, defined as the standards a product has to meet in order to be approved for a specific quality class (e.g., the standard for the weight of eggs for various size classifications, the EUROP classification of meat, etc). Quality certification schemes like ISO 9000 deal mainly with quality control. Quality control thus deals with the adherence to specific standards for product- and process-oriented quality, irrespective of at which level these have been defined. We can say that product- oriented quality and process-oriented quality deal with the level of quality, whereas quality control deals with the dispersion of quality around a predetermined level.

Finally, user-oriented quality is subjective quality perception from a user point of view; a user can be the end user or an intermediate user in the food chain, (e.g., a retailer).

As you can see in Figure, the four types are interrelated (Brunso et al., 2002). Specifically, user-oriented quality is affected by all three types of objective quality. However, these inter-relationships are by no means clear (Steenkamp & van Trijp, 1991), and user-oriented quality can also be influenced by factors that are not characteristics of the product itself, such as the purchase situation, type of retail outlet, price, or brand. Much of the discussion on quality in the food industry is concerned with product and process-oriented quality and quality control, while the consumer evaluates and pays for subjectively perceived quality. The amount a consumer is willing to pay for a product depends on this subjectively perceived quality, which is related to, but not the same as, objective quality. Improvements in objective quality, which have no effect on consumers' perceived quality, will have no commercial effect, and hence no positive effect on the producer's competitive situation.

The basis of the total food quality model is the distinction between before-and-after purchase evaluations (see Figure Most food products have search characteristics only to a limited degree. In order to make a choice, the consumer will develop quality expectations, but it is only after consumption that experienced quality can be determined, and even this is limited in case of credence characteristics. The pre-purchase component of the model shows how quality expectations are formed based on the quality cues available. The intrinsic quality cues are related to the product's technical specifications—that is, characteristics that can be measured objectively. The extrinsic quality cues represent all other characteristics, such as brand name, price, and packaging.

The way consumers use quality cues to infer expected quality can be quite intricate and, at first sight, sometimes appear to be quite irrational. For example, consumers use

The Total Food Quality Model (TFQM). Source

Figure The Total Food Quality Model (TFQM). Source: Grunert, 2005.

the color of meat to infer tenderness, the consistency of yogurt to infer taste, and packaging in bottles (compared with cartons) to infer wholesomeness.

Between the cues consumers are exposed to, only those that are perceived will have an influence on expected quality (Grunert et al., 2004). The cues consumers are exposed to and those they perceive are affected by the shopping situation—the amount of information in the shop, whether purchases are planned or spontaneous, the pressure of time while shopping, and so on.

According to the TFQM, quality is not an aim in itself, but is desired because it helps to satisfy purchase motives or values. The values sought by consumers will, in turn, have an impact on which quality dimensions are sought and how different cues are perceived and evaluated. Expected quality and expected fulfilment of purchase motives constitute the positive consequences consumers expect from buying a food product, and are offset against the negative consequences in the form of costs. The trade-off determines intention to buy. Price can be both a cost cue and an extrinsic quality cue.

After the purchase, the consumer will have a quality experience, which often deviates from expected quality. The experienced quality is influenced by many factors: the product itself, especially its sensory characteristics, but also the way the product has been prepared, situational factors such as type of meal, the consumer's mood, previous experience, etc. And the expectation itself may also be an important variable in determining the experienced quality of the product (Deliza & MacFie, 1996; Oliver, 1993; Schifferstein, 2001).

According to Grunert et al. (2004), the relationship between quality expectation and quality experience is commonly believed to determine product satisfaction and, consequently, the probability of purchasing the product again.

Compared with the Zeithaml model, it can be said (Marreiros & Ness, 2009) that the TFQM does not explicitly include price as an extrinsic cue. Additionally, the model does not consider perceived value as a higher-level abstraction, incorporating instead perceived quality and perceived cost (which can be interpreted as the perceived sacrifice proposed by the first model). However, the later model is more precise about the process of expectations formation and its relation with experience and satisfaction. This is possible because the TFQM was developed especially for the perception and evaluation of food quality and, consequently, can better analyse those processes that, sometimes, cannot be generalized to other categories of products.

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