Topic: BusinessDecision Making

Last updated: April 3, 2019


An individual’s environment has a significant impact on their food consumption behaviours. Food choice is not a luxury that can be afforded by all. However, for those who can afford this luxury their food consumption choices are not determined by taste alone. A variety of environmental, economic and social factors play a part in food choices. Most food choice models focuses on the interaction between the individual and the food product (McEwan 1990; McEwan and Thomson 1988; Shepard and Sparks, 1994). The society an individual is a part of will have an integral part in their food consumption. Society is made up of various social groupings. These social groupings are made up of individuals who have similar lifestyles, values, attitudes and beliefs. These social groupings offer an incredible opportunity to marketers as individuals within a social grouping will react in similar ways to marketing and environmental stimuli. Cultures will invariably vary, but each culture will be instrumental in the forming of the attitude, values and beliefs of the individuals within that culture. These will all be reinforced by social influence and collective behaviour. This behaviour allows for the marketing to social groups that an individual may be a part of.

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Means End Theory: One of the most prevailing theories that marketers can utilise to take advantage of these social groups a person may be a part of in the Means End Theory. The Means End Theory is based on the Means End Chain (MEC) model. This model helps to explain how the consumption of a product by an individual helps them achieve their desired ends. MEC is based on some assumptions, such as that value plays a dominant role in a consumer’s choice of product. It also assumes that an individual chooses a product due to the perceived benefits of the product in achieving the desired end. For example by buying and consuming food purchased by the individual it would achieve the desired end of satisfying their hunger. Gutman, 1982, first proposed the Means End Theory as a way to help marketers understand how the desired ends of an individual are developed and how marketers can position a product in such a way that the advertising will successfully link a products physical attributes to an individual’s desired state. Another assumption of the Means End Theory is that individuals make both voluntary and conscious choices between alternative objects, which are guided by the search of positive consequences and/ or the avoidance of negative outcomes (Olson ; Reynolds, 2001)

ACV MODEL: The Means End Theory is propped up by the ACV model (Attributes, Consequences, and Values), these characteristics help establish the self-relevance of the consequences based on the individuals held values, while also inferring their own valuation from the products’ attributes (Costa et al,. 2004). Although food related thoughts and actions by an individual are generally characterised by a low level of involvement, along with being influenced by habitual, symbolic and emotional aspects of food choices (Costa et al., 2003, Grunert et al., 1996, Steenkamp,. 1997) the Means Ends Theory, along with the ACV model can be an invaluable tool for marketers to understand how automatic, unconscious and emotion based decision making by an individual is formed

Sustainability: As the public’s awareness of sustainability is increasing every day, an individual’s consumption behaviour has also been radically shifting. This can be seen in the rise of vegan foods. One of the main arguments vegans have in regard to their consumption choices is the environmental impact it has. One of the biggest problems facing our consumption needs in the future is the rapidly expanding human populations. It is estimated that the world population will exceed 9 billion people by 2050 (UN DESA, 2015). One of the biggest concerns of this potentially rapidly expanding population is the need for the expansion of farmable land. It is argued that for this farmland to be developed, it will be at the detriment to large areas of forestry and will lead to an increase in deforestation. This will be in part to meet consumer demands. Beef is one of the most common foods found throughout the world, although raising beef is one of the most land intensive methods of food production. Couple this with the carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses released by the animals and you have a compelling argument against beef production for consumption. In this age of social awareness veganism is seen as a trendy way to promote sustainability in your everyday life. The rise of veganism, has afforded the opportunity for a new market to be tapped, and seen the rapid expansion of many new, exciting and innovative business’ to meet the demand for this shift in the food market. This can be clearly seen in the rise of vegan restaurants that have become increasingly commonplace to meet the demand people have for sustainable food, while also fulfilling the need for the morality of the food to be produced in a conscientious manner. Perhaps the clearest indication that the modern environment, where people want convenient food that is sustainable, can be seen on Deliveroo. Deliveroo has shown that vegan and vegetarian restaurants are the fastest growing sub-group on their app, as reported by the Irish Examiner on the 14th of November 2018.In fact it was reported that Deliveroo had an increase of 73% for the number of vegan dishes being ordered through their app compared to last year, once again highlighting how a social environment has been created that impacts on an individual’s consumption behaviour.
Through the use of the Means End Theory, and the ACV model, we can determine how the consumption of vegan food can help an individual achieve their desired end of both satiating their hunger whilst also being sustainable.

Attributes: Includes both the physical attributes (Perceived as healthier than regular diets) and the abstract attributes (Seen as a lifestyle choice).
Consequences: These include the direct consequences for the individual (Satiating a need), the indirect consequences (Compliments and approval from people, especially those within the vegan community) and the psychological consequences (Increased self-esteem and potential enhancement of the individuals’ social status within the vegan culture)

All of this is quite interesting from a food market perspective. There seems to be a large shift towards ethically sourced food. One of the most interesting prospects to come out of this new age of consumption, where people acknowledge their consumption choices and the impact it has as a whole, is the development of lab grown meat. Although not currently on the market, there is a substantial group of individuals, who are part of the vegan culture that this product could be easily marketed towards. An affordable, cruelty free burger is one that appeals to many social groupings. If marketed correctly and effectively then it could potentially cause a massive shift in the global food market.

Convenience: The convenience of food in an individual’s social environment has a significant impact on their food consumption behaviour. Convenience is thought to be an important factor when an individual is determining their food choices, along with the price, sensory appeal and the potential health impact the food will have (McIntosh, 1996, Rappoport et al., 1993, Steptoe et al., 1995).
Costa et al., 2007 did a means-end study on choices for meal solutions. There are different means to reach the desired end when it comes to meal choices. One of the main choices an individual must make when it comes to meal choices is home cooked versus ready-made). Meals made at home had several strong arguments in its favour.

Attributes: Daily task, low cost, shared, made by the individual, fresh.
Consequences: Core consequences, include the maintenance of their physique (adequate intake of nutrients due to the control they are able to exert over what they are eating). Also, a social consequence of home cooking is the social aspect (Due to family and friends coming together).

Ready meals are widely recognised by individual consumers as having several favourable attributes over other meal solutions affording individuals a positive impact as regards both work and sports (Costa et al., 2007)

Attributes: No preparation, can be stored
Consequences: Allows more free time for the individual, can be seen as having poor nutritional due to the high levels of fats/salts/sugars associated with these meal solutions. This can lead to non-users judging those individuals who use ready meals as a meal solution and having the opinion that individuals who employed this meal solution were neglecting their duties towards themselves and others (Costa et al., 2007.)

This offers a huge opportunity to food marketers. There is clearly a niche for healthy and nutritious ready to eat meals that afford the individual the free time associated with the meal solution, while also providing the peace of mind and the nutritional value that a home cooked meal provides. This can clearly be seen in the Cully and Sully brand. They have shown that there is a clear niche there for nutritious ready meals and have successfully utilised the Ballymaloe brand recognition to break down some of the stigmas associated with ready meals.

Overall an individual’s social environment impacts their food choices massively. Convenience and sustainability play an important role in the choices people make every day and are compounded by other factors, such as culture, age and the social group they are part of. Although near impossible to successfully influence every individual’s food choices through marketing, it is possible to utilise the Means End Theory along with the ACV model to successfully market to certain key demographics. This can offer marketers an exciting opportunity to bring new products to the market to fulfil the ever evolving needs an individual may have, whether it be a product that allows the consumer to keep with their value of sustainability or allows the individual more freedom with compromising on taste or nutrition.


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