Document Type

Theses, Ph.D

Rights

This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only

Disciplines

Business and Management.

Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy to the Dublin Institute of Technology in June, 2009.

Abstract

People have become obsessed with the harmful effects of eating (Rozin, 1999) and are experiencing ‘food anxiety’, a by-product of modern food. The aim of this research was to explore the nature of food anxiety in Ireland and the potential implications for the food sector. The research objectives were to determine the range of issues causing food anxiety in Irish consumers; to investigate the impact of food anxiety on food choice behaviour; to examine the potential of food anxiety as a segmentation variable for categorizing consumers; and to identify antecedents to the experience of food anxiety. A sequential, mixed methodology research strategy was used. The research was conducted in two phases. The first phase adopted a qualitative approach. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with a convenience sample (n=40) to gain insight into food anxiety. The second stage adopted a quantitative approach. Survey questionnaires were administered to a randomly selected sample (n=490). Principal components analysis identified five dimensions of food anxiety when food shopping – (techno)ethical, nutritional, (micro)biological, dietary restrictions and food provenance anxiety. Food anxiety when eating out encompassed four distinct dimensions – technological, nutritional, food integrity and food trends anxiety. Spearman’s Rank Order Correlations established a significant relationship between food anxiety and food choice behaviour. Anxiety-based segmentation, using cluster analysis, identified three distinct clusters of food shoppers – ‘Nonchalant Consumers’, ‘Health Conscientious Consumers’ and ‘Anti-Modernist Circumspect Consumers’. The food-service market was segmented into ‘Easygoing Diners’, ‘Apprehensive Diners’ and ‘Distressed Diners’. Gender, age, marital status, income, education, body mass index, food responsibility, experience of food related illness, the presence of ‘high risk’ household members, living location, perceived personal knowledge, trust in food sector stakeholders and value priorities were found to be significant antecedents of food anxiety using Kruskal-Wallis Tests, Mann-Whitney U Tests and Spearman’s Rank Order Correlations. Binomial logistic regression analyses investigated which anxiety antecedents were of greatest value in predicting food anxiety when food shopping and eating out and identified that perceived personal knowledge of food-related issues and value priorities were of particular significance as predictors of food anxiety. Food producers, retailers and food-service operators should be alerted to the findings of this study because no previous research has focused on the existence of food anxiety or the link between food anxiety and food choice behaviour. This research presented a rationale for research into the concept of food anxiety. It is hoped that this study will stimulate further research into this important phenomenon.

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