Variability of Food Choice Motives: Two Dutch studies showing variation across meal moment, location and social context

Verain, M.C.D.; Puttelaar, J. Van Den; Zandstra, E.H.; Lion, R.; Vogel-van Den Bosch, J. De; Hoonhout, H.C.M.; Onwezen, M.C.


Food Choice Motives (FCMs) such as price, sensory appeal and health are important in understanding food consumption. FCMs are traditionally investigated at a general level, for food choices on ‘a typical day’. However, food choices have been shown to differ across temporal, situational and social contexts. This suggests that measuring FCMs at a context-specific level could increase our understanding of food consumption in different contexts. Therefore, the current paper aims to explore whether FCMs are indeed context-specific for different meal moments, locations and social contexts. Two studies were conducted among Dutch adults (Study 1: N = 935; Study 2: N = 642). Both studies measured FCMs in context, either by using 2-hour recalls (Study 1) or recalls of the last consumption moment (Study 2). Result showed that participants rated and ranked FCMs significantly different across most contexts showing the relevance of considering the context when studying FCMs. Egocentric motives of taste, affordability, and convenience were the most important motives across all contexts, as was health. In contrast, sustainability-related motives were consistently rated as least important. Most variability occurred in the middle part of the rankings and mainly in health-related motives such as weight control and safety. This shows the added value of measuring FCMs in different contexts, particularly for health-related motives. The contexts snacking versus main meals, eating out of home versus at home and eating alone versus with others showed the most pronounced contrasts in ranking of FCMs. The current study is the first to quantitatively explore the variability of FCMs across eating contexts, both in rating and ranking of FCMs. The chosen research method resulted in a representative, though unbalanced sample of consumption contexts in the Netherlands, which limits the generalizability of the results to an international context and restricts the insights in out-of-home contexts as food is mainly consumed at home in the Netherlands. The results enable public health authorities and food companies to target messages, interventions and products to consumers’ Food Choice Motives in specific contexts.