Consumer Behavior Models Applied to Food Sector

Elka Vasileva

Department of Economics of Natural Resources, University of National and World Economy, Sofia, Bulgaria


The study of consumer behavior toward food is associated with addressing a series of questions—for example, what is this behavior, what preceded it, and how can it be influenced? We can look for answers in consumer behavior “models” based on a set of conceptual formulations and cause-and-effect links between dependent and independent variables (Jackson 2005; Solomon et al., 2006; Gorton and Barjolle 2013).

Research in the field of consumer behavior based on various theoretical traditions constitutes a platform for contribution of specialists from various fields such as economy, trade and marketing, psychology, sociology, social anthropology, and others. This illustrates the potential function of the patterns for detecting the nature of the specific behavior and identification of the factors that might be important for influencing it. Thus, for example, the theory of buyer behavior underlines the importance of the needs, desires, and attitudes of consumers to the brand and their consequences on the purchasing decision. The other potential role of the models is to provide conceptual and theoretical framework to carry out detailed empirical studies of specific behaviors and the role of interventions in influencing those behaviors.

The literature related to consumer studies in the food sector distinguishes various degrees of complexity of consumer behavior models. It has been found that more sophisticated models support conceptual understanding of consumer behavior but they are not suitable for empirical quantificational determination of certain variables. Conversely, less sophisticated models can help empirical measurements, but they make difficult conceptual understanding by neglecting key variables and the relationships between key variables (Jackson 2005; Solomon et al., 2006).

Depending on the types of variables, which the different models attempt to measure, we can emphasize the application of two types of approaches: (1) the internalist approach behavior models are considered as a function of processes and characteristics that are internal to the individual (attitudes, values, personal habits, and norms); (2) the externalist approach studies behavior as a function of processes and characteristics external to the individual (regulatory incentives, institutional restrictions, and social norms).

Advances in Dairy Products, First Edition.

Edited by Francesco Conto, Matteo A. Del Nobile, Michele Faccia, Angelo V. Zambrini, and Amalia Conte.

© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2018 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

A variety of qualitative and quantitative models can be used in the study of consumer behavior in general, and those associated with food, in particular.

In this chapter, two of the most popular approaches to consumer behavior models, specifically applied in the study of food choices, will be examined: (1) the rational choice models based on the traditional economic understanding of consumer behavior; (2) the widely applied theory of reasoned action and theory of planned behavior as representatives of the adapted models based on the expectancy-value theory.

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