This item is only available as the following downloads:
Industry Report 92-2
Focus Group Report on
Purchased Meat Purchases by
A Report by
Robert L. Degner
Florida Agricultural Market Research Center
Food and Resource Economics Department
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0240
Focus Group Report
Processed Meat Purchases by Older Consumers
Jordan Lin and Robert L. Degnera
The purpose of this study was to obtain insights into the factors that
affect older consumers' consumption behavior regarding processed meat items. The
main interest of the study was in the health concerns and attitudes of this
market segment and the impact that health considerations have on consumers'
purchase and use patterns toward processed meat items. A secondary interest was
to identify innovative marketing approaches to increase sales of processed meat
items to these consumers.
Four focus groups were conducted in three cities: Tampa (2 groups, group
I on May 20, 1991 and group II on May 21, 1991), Orlando (May 28, 1991), and
Miami (June 4, 1991). The participants selected were between 55 and 70 years of
age, female, main grocery shoppers in the household who bought at least one of
the five processed meat items: luncheon meats (salami/bologna), frankfurters,
sausage, ham, and bacon. Participants were also selected to exclude these that
were working full-time or whose spouses were employed full-time. A total of 41
women participated in the discussions: 10 in Tampa I group (9 white and 1 black),
11 in Tampa II group (9 white, 1 black, 1 oriental), 10 in Orlando (all white),
and 10 in Miami (all white).
The sessions took about two hours each to conduct. Both audio- and video-
tapes were made to preserve the language and facial expressions of the
participants and serve as the basis of this report. One moderator experienced
in a wide range of food products and focus group interviews conducted all of the
A discussion guide was developed to insure that all topics of interest were
explored, yet flexible enough to permit discussion of issues as they
spontaneously arose. Each session began with a general discussion of
participants' food consumption behavior and recent changes in consumption
patterns. Next, consumption patterns, perceptions, and concerns associated with
each of the five processed meat item categories were discussed item by item.
After a short break, the discussions touched on sources and credibility of health
and nutrition information. Finally, existing and potential marketing tools were
explored and participants were asked to identify brands which portrayed various
The intent of these interviews was to uncover a range of behavior and
attitudes and to generate research hypotheses. By definition, results from focus
groups are usually not projectable to the population in general due to the non-
random manner in which participants are selected, the small numbers of
respondents, and the nature of the questioning and discussion process.
"Drs. Lin and Degner are Postdoctoral Research Associate and Professor,
respectively, of the Florida Agricultural Market Reocarch Center, Food and
Resource Economics Department, IFAS, University of Florida in Gainesville.
Behavior and Attitudes Toward Food Shoppina. Consumption. and Preparation
Participants commonly purchase food items from supermarkets.
Produce and deli departments are most appealing for fresh, healthy,
and convenient foods. Health concerns and promotional activities
are the major factors that determine product and brand choices.
Participants generally hold positive attitudes toward cooking but
some have tired of it. Yet, they are still interested in new
recipes. Health concerns have led to reduced purchases of red meats
in favor of poultry, fish, and vegetables. However, participants do
not always adhere to strict diets.
Generally speaking, the participants patronize all kinds of retail food
outlets, but the supermarket is the source of most food purchases. Discount
clubs such as SAMS or PACE are also popular. A few participants buy foods at
commissaries and specialty stores. Apparently, supermarket promotional activity
is an important choice factor. As one participant put it, "I buy wherever there
is a good buy."
Food shopping is not necessarily a satisfying experience for all
participants. Some of them enjoy the opportunity to be out of the house, to
compare stores, or to explore new merchandise. But others, particularly those
employed part-time or doing volunteer work, find shopping a chore and time-
consuming. Typically participants do the shopping alone, but some go with
husbands, friends or neighbors.
The produce department seems to be the favorite supermarket department
largely because of broad selections of fresh "healthy" items. Associating some
processed meats with produce items may be an effective promotional strategy. For
example, "real" bacon bits, ham, salami, or bologna could be used as salad
ingredients to provide flavor and additional nutrition. A few participants find
the deli section interesting because the foods there can be served conveniently.
Delis also offer the flexibility of smaller quantities, especially important for
single individuals. Many participants also perceived deli meats as being fresher
"I can get a small quantity from the deli."
"I go to deli when I am in a hurry."
"The prepackaged hangs for a long time, while at deli they open it
and use it up."
In terms of menu planning, a grocery list ic typically relied on, although
impulse purchases are not uncommon. Two major factors influence what products
and brands are purchased: health and promotional activities. Many participants
mentioned that their own or their husbands' health conditions were the
predominant considerations. They buy the foods that are in line with controlled
diets and avoid foods that would aggravate existing health problems. Promotional
activities such as coupons and in-store demonstrations also affect participants'
buying decisions. The participants use coupons extensively and admit that
coupons remind them to get a product or brand that they need or have not had
recently. Several participants agree that another function of coupons is to
provide incentives to try something new. But others also say they use coupons
only for products they normally purchase and the use depends on how expensive the
product is. At the same time, some participants enjoy the opportunities that in-
store demonstrations offer to sample a variety of free food products and to have
a free meal. The remark by a participant illustrates this interest best: "On
Friday you can have lunch at Publix. They give out free samples at the deli."
Participants' attitudes toward cooking are generally positive. Many like
to cook. But, others think "it's a chore" and have tired of it. As one
participant put it, "After 35 years of cooking three meals a day, I am tired of
it." Routine meals are viewed by many as drudgery, but most participants were
willing to give new recipes a try. Therefore, offering new recipes can offer
escape from an otherwise boring task.
As to the general consumption trends of food, participants typically have
reduced their purchases of beef or pork in favor of more chicken, turkey, fish,
and vegetables over the past several years. A common reason is doctors' advice
to reduce cholesterol, fat, or salt intake. This seems to be the primary
consideration for participants in whose household there is someone with heart-
related or hypertension problems. In contrast, a participant commented that "I
still buy meat and ham because my husband's cholesterol level is low and he likes
it." Also, there was a perception that "manufacturers are now aware that people
have become health conscious" so they have substituted vegetable oil for animal
oil in many foods.
However, the discussions show people may not stick to strict diets all the
time. When asked whether "you fall off the wagon sometime," several participants
answered yes. This happens most often when they eat out or on weekends. For one
participant who was on a diet program, this also arose from a 'what the heck'
response after a period of dieting.
Behavior and Perceptions Toward Processed Meat Items
The interviews covered five major processed meat items in the market:
luncheon meats (bologna/salami), frankfurters, sausage, bacon, and ham. On each
product, the participants were first asked about their usage patterns.
Subsequently, the moderator probed their views about various aspects of the food
such as packaging and ingredients. Finally, the interviews proceeded toward
specific health concerns toward the processed items. In three of the four
sessions, participants had the chance of tasting warmed samples of ham and
sausage. Unlabelled packaged samples were also shown to participants to define
Among participants who purchase luncheon meats, these items are
commonly bought to make lunches for their husbands. Some
participants buy salami/bologna at the deli. Others select the
prepackaged meats. But both groups welcome resealable packages to
keep the product fresh at home. Many participants like turkey or
chicken luncheon meats.
Participants usually purchase these meats for their husbands' lunch
sandwiches while their own consumption does not appear heavy. The meats are also
served as a meal or h'ors d'oeuvres. Frequency and quantity of purchase seem to
depend largely on usage and vary from occasion to occasion. Those who prefer
deli luncheon meats think the products there are fresher and taste better.
Versatility is the other benefit offered by deli in that "people can have as many
or few slices as they like" and the meats "can be cut the way I like." One
participant also commented that she liked deli because she could see what is in
the product. At the same time, prepackaged meats are chosen by participants who
believe deli products are not as fresh and cannot last as long.
Leftovers of luncheon meats are typically transferred from original package
to a Ziploc bag or freezer bag for storage. However, the idea of a resealable
package receives great enthusiasm and one participant immediately mentioned Oscar
Meyer's Ziploc package as "a brilliant idea." The only complaint is that a lot
of resealable packages do not work. (It was not clear though what foods these
packages contained.) At the same time, several participants say they always use
Ziplocs regardless of the original package.
Thin slices seem to be more preferred than thick ones because the former
can accommodate personal preferences better. This is another reason that deli
is frequented so that the meats can be cut in the desired thickness. On the
other hand, a participant remarked that "some packages are too small" and there
should be a 'family pack' to save packaging cost. The Tampa I group was asked
about their feelings toward the variety pack. Some participants think it is good
to have this option. In particular, this is important when these meats are used
for entertaining purposes. Ironically, other participants do not appear to be
interested in a variety pack as users may not like some of the types included.
A lot of participants are suspicious of and concerned with what they eat
in terms of the ingredients in luncheon meats such as fillers, extenders, and
coloring: "if we had known what went into it, we would not have bought it."
Another participant noted this was the main reason why she preferred buying fresh
steak and making her own luncheon meats. Health concerns for themselves and
their husbands have led to more purchases of turkey, chicken and kosher products
to cut down on fat, cholesterol, and sodium intake. In this regard, Louis Rich
was commended by several participants as the first company to introduce turkey
products. However, the turkey or chicken variety receives mixed acceptance among
participants. Although some participants like it, others simply are not "crazy
about it" and believe it has "a different flavor than the regular (beef or pork)
Frankfurters are widely purchased since they are convenient and
appealing to adults and children alike. Hot dogs are frequently
served to grandchildren. Participants typically prefer prepackaged
product yet are still interested in divisible and resealable
packaging for easy storage. Health concerns have led to more use of
turkey and, chicken hot doga. However, the former has several
inherent weaknesses. Many participants expressed the perception
that turkey and chicken products lacked flavor. The turkey-beef
combination was well received; some participants felt that turkey
made the product more "healthy" and beef added flavor and taste.
However, some participants had reservations regarding fat and
caloric content of the blended product. In some participants'
views, a chicken-beef blend would be comparable to turkey-beef.
Frankfurters appear to have been purchased by most participants. They are
commonly served for lunch, although several other types of meal or occasions were
mentioned such as dinner, entrees and h'ors d'oeuvres. Convenience is the main
attraction of frankfurters. Interestingly, participants in three out of the four
groups (except Miami) identified hot dogs as the quick, convenient food of choice
"for my grandchildren."
Prepackaged frankfurters are preferred to those from the deli.
Participants perceive prepackaged as tastier, less expensive, with a more
appealing color. Despite positive images of the prepackaged, the length and
number of hot dogs in a pack are two major complaints that surfaced in the
discussions. They would like to have bun-length hot dogs. A few of the
participants have purchased bun-length hot dogs and now prefer them. Another
annoyance is the number of franks in a package. As one participant said, "I
always end up having either more hot dogs or more buns." Therefore, the idea of
a package that contains the same number of hot dogs as buns is widely welcomed.
Moreover, participants expressed strong interest in divisible and
resealable package designs to keep the unused portion fresh. A number of them
spoke favorably of an Oscar Meyer's product which contains two individually
sealed sections, each with an equal number of hot dogs (4 or 5). Although many
participants currently use Ziploc bags or freezer bags, they would still like to
see a resealable retail package and say they would buy it if available.
"Oh, boyl" and "do you know what's in them?" are among the first reactions
when participants were asked about their concerns of the ingredients in hot dogs.
Though participants are typically unsure of what goes in the food, it is apparent
that they do not hold favorable impressions toward fillers, preservatives,
binders, and coloring agents.
Participants were also generally concerned about cholesterol, fat, and
sodium content in hot dogs, but one said she was not concerned since she liked
hot dogs anyway. Health consciousness is a primary reason for some of these
women to buy more turkey or chicken products. Yet, a participant's observation
that "chicken and turkey hot dogs are not as cholesterol-free as the beef ... it
was in the paper" somehow amazed others in her group.
Several participants also remarked that:
"Turkey hot dogs don't taste like a hot dog ...
something is missing."
"Turkey hot dogs completely turn me off, although I eat
other turkey products."
Additionally, a few participants commented that the skin of turkey hot dogs is
tough. Price does not appear to be a major consideration. While some
participants say their choices of meat constituents depend on their taste
preferences, some say they buy "whatever is on sale." Some also alternate the
constituents to have a variety in menu. With regard to 'light' hot dogs, a small
number of participants remember seeing advertisements of the product but few have
Given that a number of participants use leaner product such as turkey hot
dogs and health concerns are prevalent among these individuals, several product
ideas were explored. First of all, "Suppose a well known major meat company were
to come out with a hot dog that is a combination of turkey and beef. Would you
buy it? What do you think about the new product?" A lot of them note this is
probably a good idea and would be willing to try the turkey-beef hot dogs. They
think this combination would have less fat, cholesterol, and sodium than all-beef
product yet be more appealing than all-turkey as
"They (the manufacturers) probably know turkey hot dogs
don't taste like hot dogs and they want to pull the beef
One participant also felt that beef would make the hot dog less "dry." On the
other hand, the proposed blend received negative evaluations in that "you are
defeating yourself by buying turkey and beef if you really want to stay away from
Following the general discussion of a turkey-beef hot dog, the moderator
presented the groups with a more specific blend a "85% fat-free turkey-beef hot
dog" and elicited participants' responses. Many participants expressed
interest and willingness to try the product because "it may be more flavored and
at the same time making me not guilty about eating beef." Nevertheless, several
participants, especially those on a 'calorie-watch' diet, were uncertain about
the 'fat-free' claim. The major concern appears to be whether the claim is based
on weight or calories and the kind of fat reduced. They are apparently
knowledgeable of the recent publicity about Food and Drug Administration's
actions against misleading or deceptive health claims (e.g., 'No cholesterol'
cooking oils). Hence, these participants want to know "85% free of what,"
unsaturated and saturated fat contents, and the total calorie counts in the 85%
fat-free beef-turkey hot dog, before they decide to try the new variety.
Nevertheless, there appears to be an appalling lack of knowledge among consumers
with respect to nutritional content of meats.
Another product concept explored was chicken-beef hot dogs and was
discussed in the Tampa I session. Participants generally think this combination
is either as nutritional or not as lean as turkey-beef hot dog. Some thought the
chicken-beef variety might be tastier; yet "beef has a predominant flavor, so
there is probably not much taste difference from turkoy-beef." One participant
also commented "that does not turn me on ... chicken has its own flavor." When
it comes to which combination of the two is more desirable, participants
typically think an individual's preferences toward chicken versus turkey will
carry over and determine his/her choice of turkey-beef or chicken-beef hot dogs.
Finally, the Miami group was asked about the product concept of a turkey
and pork combination. One participant, who had tried a combination turkey and
pork sausage and enjoyed it, welcomed the idea despite her feeling that such a
product would still be high in cholesterol because of the pork.
Sausage is commonly purchased as prepackaged since it "tastes
better, costs less and has longer shelf life" than that from delis.
Participants commonly purchase this item for breakfast and dinner
meals. It is also used by many as an ingredient in other dishes and
for h'ors d'oeuvres. Prepackaged sausage is preferred and the
current package size is satisfactory for most participants.
However, some would prefer smaller, resealable packages.
Participants like sausage's texture yet find its casing sometimes
tough to chew. The degree of concern about sausage ingredients is
not as high as other processed meats discussed above probably
because the consumption is lower.
Participants generally feel satisfied with the size and packaging of the
item (as shown with the sample). Some also prefer to see the two pieces wrapped
individually, because they do not eat this item as much as they used to. Ziploc
bags are widely used to keep unused portion fresh; yet participants would welcome
resealable retail packaging. At this junction, the Oscar Meyer brand was
mentioned again as an example.
With regard to product characteristics, sausage's texture was generally
considered favorable. But there were complaints about its casing being tough to
chew and some commented on the coarsely ground pieces of fat that were evident
in the sample. As mentioned in the case of other processed meats, cholesterol,
preservatives, binders and sodium are the top-of-mind concerns among
participants. Yet the common feelings toward these ingredients can perhaps be
summarized in a participant's comment:
"We probably should (be concerned). But they (the
manufacturers) are going to put it in everything. So
what can you do? You've no choice."
In addition, some participants realize it is these ingredients that "make
it (the sausage) taste good," and that they probably need not be concerned since
they do not eat sausage that much anyway. The respondents think turkey sausage
would be delicious. But a few participants also commented that "if I am eating
turkey, I want turkey."
Bacon is generally served for breakfast, but is also used on BLT's
and as a flavoring ingredient. Participants favor the prepackaged
variety and desire to have bacon contained in resealable packaging.
Although they are concerned with fat and cholesterol in bacon, the
concern is handled through cooking method.
Bacon is commonly served for breakfast or put in other dishes as an
ingredient to add flavor. Participants also report using the item for other
meals and h'ors d'oeuvres. Prepackaged bacon is widely preferred because of
favorable price, lower sodium, and its contents are shown on the label.
Nonetheless, one participant liked deli bacon better because she could specify
the thickness of the slices. Resealable packaging would suit storage needs well.
As to desired thickness, it is largely dependent on usage but "paper-thin" size
does not receive good remarks in that it is "too fatty," hard to handle, and
wasteful. Some participants have tried artificial bacon, but thought it was
"leathery" and not tasteful.
Fat and cholesterol are the primary concerns with bacon. However, some
participants feel that dietary dangers can be reduced by letting microwaved bacon
sit on paper towels to drain excessive fat. There are also the feelings that
"If you like it, you are going to eat it."
"At this'age, we tend to think we've had our lifetime,
we might as well enjoy it."
Ham is used for entrees and as an ingredient. Both the ham steaks
and the nuggets or party-style ham products were appealing and
considered nutritionally comparable. Some participants believe
'pork is a white meat' without fat, while others rather consider the
statement as a marketing gimmick by the pork industry. Cholesterol
and sodium are the major health concerns although some participants
are more attentive to the quality of life.
Participants cook ham for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and frequently for
holidays and entertaining. It is also widely used as a seasoning ingredient.
The participants were shown two kinds of prepackaged ham: ham steak and a ham
nugget. The former appeals to some participants because of its tenderness and
versatility as an entree or an ingredient. The latter is liked by other
participants on the belief that it contains less fat and is easy to store.
Participants are generally satisfied with the size of the sample shown but a few
felt a smaller ham steak would be more suitable for households in this age group.
They were. receptive to the idea of a ham steak the diameter of the nugget, with
multiple, individually shrink-wrapped pieces in one master package.
Participants believed there was no difference in terms of nutrition between
the ham steak and the ham nugget. But they were uncertain of ham's nutritional
value as compared to other processed meats. While a number of participants think
ham has less sodium and does not have fillers, "I don't know" is a more common
response. The two Tampa groups were asked about the claim that 'pork is a white
meat.' While some participants think this statement is true "as long as you get
the fat out" or "after you cook it," others dispute it and view the claim as a
marketing gimmick by the pork industry "because we all say it's bad and don't eat
some participants commented they and their husbands have cut down ham
consumption over the years due to health concerns. Cholesterol and sodium
content is the major health consideration some participants have about ham. In
contrast, some other participants were not convinced of the concern,
"What quality of life would you have if you push away
from everything you enjoy?"
"I am gonna do it anyway ... because two months from now
they'll come up with some new tests that everything you
gave up is not bad for you."
Sources and Credibility of Nutrition Information
Participants receive nutrition information from various sources,
among which physicians are most trustworthy and commercials least.
Participants also read product labels though they are not certain
about the truthfulness of label information.
Participants obtain nutrition/health information from newspapers,
television news and commercials, magazines (e.g., Good Housekeeping), physicians,
dieticians, extension agents (home-economists), food labels, and newsletters
published by organizations such as AARP and American Association of University
Women (AAUW). However, participants do not view all sources as equally credible,
with the information provided by medical professionals being most reliable and
that in television commercials least believable. Nevertheless, health/nutrition
television programs featuring physicians and extension agents were applauded by
the Orlando and Tampa groups.
Food labels are an important source of information. Participants typically
claim they read food labels and are aware of the major nutritional items listed
in the label (calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium). Yet they cannot recall
specific details. While some participants feel the print size of nutrition
contents is adequate, others think the print is hardly readable. Generally
speaking, the level of attention to label information depends on the
participant's (and/or her husband's) health status. When asked about the
credibility of label information, the common views are suspicion and uncertainty.
"Aren't they (label contents) controlled by FDA?"
"They'd better be (true)."
"I don't know."
Responses and Attitudes Toward Existing Marketing Activities
Collection and use of coupons are widespread and dependent on
consumption of the product and its retail price. Many participants
agree that coupons have reminding effect but their validity is
frequently too short. A 'tear-off' type of coupon which could be
redeemed instantly was suggested for processed meat items.
Participants take advantage of premiums only when the offer is
substantial, for something complimentary to the purchased product,
or for worthwhile causes. They prefer 'cents-off for next purchase'
to premiums. Tie-ins are welcome when the offered product is
purchased regularly or the purchased product is relatively storable.
But unavailability of tie-in products is viewed as a common problem.
PaLrtioipants are interested in collecting and trying new recipes.
There is a desire for a flexible health diet and recipes attached to
packaging. As to in-store demonstrations, participants welcome free
samples. Finally, discount club membership is not common and
participants tend to patronize this outlet for consumer goods other
than perishable foods.
To explore participants' reactions toward various promotional tools, they
were asked about their behavior and feelings toward coupons, premiums, tie-ins,
recipes, and in-store demonstrations. Almost all participants agree that coupons
are important and useful, and they collect coupons received from manufacturers,
retailers, and other sources such as American Association of Retired Persons
(AARP). several factors affect the use of coupons which in turn influences what
are put into the shopping carts. Participants redeem a coupon "only if it's
something I would buy anyway, even it's a dollar off." Others admit that "they
(manufacturers) got to advertise, otherwise that certain brand won't come to your
mind." Also, coupon with or without a recipe of a new product can create
incentives to try the product: "that's the only way I'd try something (new)."
As to what minimum value of a coupon is acceptable, there was no consensus.
But the discussions indicate their views are largely dependent on whether the
product is regularly purchased ("ten cents is ten cents, if it's something I
buy.") and retail price of the product. Participants commonly have complaints
about coupon's length of validity. Most prefer coupons with no expiration date.
With regard to coupons for processed meat items, some participants would
collect and use the coupons. Several participants suggest that the 'tear-off'
type coupon on 'Eagle' brand condensed milk could be used for processed meats
with the coupon stuck to the plastic packaging. There were also some
participants-who said they would not use coupons for processed meats.
Participants were also asked about their views toward premiums. Some
participants express willingness to collect proofs of purchase for redemption if
the product is regularly used. But a prevalent opinion appears to be that this
effort is worth the trouble only when the offer is "substantial," the redemption
is for something complementary to the purchased product (e.g., hot dogs and grill
tools), or the purpose is benevolent (e.g., Publix's cashier receipts for
donating computers to schools). Some participants prefer to have 'cents-off for
next purchase' rather than premiums.
As for tie-ins, participants welcome this idea if they make routine
purchase of the other product, or the product itself is not perishable ("my
grandchildren drink a lot of milk and cereals don't go bad.") However, many
participants complain that the other product is often unavailable and therefore
renders the offer worthless. A few also prefer rebates to tie-ins.
Participants typically collect recipes available in magazines, newspapers,
stores and food packagings regardless of eventual use of the recipes. There was
an interest in a diet/health recipe that can accommodate the different needs of
household members. Also, several participants expressed their preferences toward
the 'tear-off' type recipe attached on some rice containers in the market.
In-store demonstrations are also appealing to participants. They enjoy the
opportunities offered to taste various food samples and are ready to make trial
purchases of the sampled items. Finally, as mentioned at the beginning of this
report, discount clubs are frequented for some shopping needs. However, the
discussions suggest the patronage of discount clubs is probably more related to
consumer goods other than perishable food items.
Attitudes Toward Innovative Marketing Approaches
Two innovative marketing approaches that aim at reaching consumers of this
age group and establishing positive corporate images were explored during the
discussions: manufacturer/processor provided health and nutrition information,
and manufacturer/processor sponsored clubs for senior citizens.
Some participants viewed manufacturer sponsored information with
skepticism because they generally view independent medical
professionals as more credible and are uneasy with the commercial
motivations behind such information campaigns. On the other hand,
there is a feeling that companies would hurt their own interests if
they do not supply truthful information. Participants do not agree
completely on the need for a company sponsored club. As to a
possible name for such a club, the reference to 'senior citizen'
receives mixed reactions.
Participants were asked "if a meat company were to provide you with health
and nutrition information, would you read it and would you believe it?" The
common response is that they would read it but take it "with a grain of salt."
While participants claim they are health-conscious and interested in nutrition
information, the credibility of this source of information appears to be
influenced by two factors. First, doctors and dieticians are widely considered
the most trustworthy and knowledgeable source of information. Second, they
speculate the motivation of this proposal, "I think they (the company) are trying
to make bucks!" In this regard, a participant referred to the cases of 'fresh'
orange-juice and deceptive claims on cholesterol content as examples.
The attitude is more noticeable when the Orlando group was also asked "if
a processed meat company were to provide you with health information by a medical
spokesperson/home-economist/dietician, would the information be more tainted than
that by someone not affiliated with the company?" Participants generally would
evaluate the information with reservation. As one participant remarked, "All
those actors (who appear in commercials advocating some product) would not do it
if they were not paid to do it."
On the other hand, several participants held more positive perceptions
toward company provided information, "they'll ruin themselves by lying because
we'll find out." It is also worth noting the comments by one participant. She
mentioned that a local supermarket (Goodings in Orlando) had put up labels
indicating which food items contained less fat or less sodium. And, "I am
inclined to believe this must be an honest effort to help our health." Could a
manufacturer/processor offer the same service? She thought they could and "false
advertising (regulations) will get them" if the manufacturer/processor made
Many participants belong to organizations such as AARP and enjoy the
benefits of discounts, health/nutrition and insurance information. Hence a
specific format of information dissemination was explored: a company sponsored
club, exclusively for this age group, that periodically distributes
health/nutrition information to its members. The typical response from
participants is approval. However, there were also the feelings that this idea
was not necessary since AARP already provides such benefits. In addition, one
participant did not favor this idea because it would increase advertising costs
and raise consumer expenditures.
Participants were asked about their responses regarding the name of such
an organization. First, "would you be offended to be called a senior citizen or
retiree?" Participants' attitudes toward this proposal are mixed. Some claim
they would not be bothered because "as long as I get discounts, they can call me
anything they want" or "we are what we are." Others are concerned about the
connotations of this reference "I'm a senior citizen but not old;" "when you
reach an age, they think you are senile!" And, there are a few participants who
admit-they are irritated by being called a senior citizen.
Second, "what would you call this club?" Three names were loosely
suggested: "Health and Nutrition," "Nutrition Club," and "Diet (something)."
More importantly, some participants in the Tampa I group agree that they are not
'scared' by the word 'health' since they are conscious of their health condition
and interested in health-related information. But they would shy away from a
magazine such as 'Prevention' which claims, according to a participant,
"everything you put in your mouth is bad for you."
Brand Loyalty and Ranking
While they typically stay with a limited number of brands,
occasionally brand-switching can occur because competing brands
offer a better bargain or when the desired brand is not available.
At the conclusion of discussions, participants were asked about their brand
loyalty in terms of processed meat items. In terms of processed meats, the
following rankings were reported by participants (in the order of frequency
mentioned). Quality-wise, the best brands are Oscar Meyer, Eckerich, Louis Rich,
Lykes, store brands, Sinai, and Hebrew National; the worst are Hormel (bacon),
Sunnyland, store brands, and Lykes. With respect to overall value, store brands
(Publix in particular) enjoy highest recognition. Lykes was also mentioned as
a good value. Participants in the Tampa I group think the nutritional value of
most brands is comparable. Other groups mentioned Oscar Meyer, Louis Rich (as
the innovator of turkey products), and Lykes as offering higher nutritional
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Habits and attitudes built over years of experience have a controlling
effect on the eating and food purchase patterns of these older consumers. Taste
preferences remain one of the most important factors in determining participants'
food choices. In their views, the usage occasions for the foods discussed are
already defined, and largely influenced by their own eating habits and those of
their husbands. Nevertheless, many of the participants are still interested in
exploring recipes'of existing and innovative food products.
Participants are also price-conscious of food products and retail outlets.
Although their food choices as well as brand selections are limited and
constrained by habits, they are exposed to the influences of promotional tools
in the marketplace. The fact that many participants look for 'better deals' and
appear to be keen on using coupons suggests the role of economic considerations
in their decision-making. Coupons also serve as a reminder on participants'
shopping list and provide an economic incentive that leads to product trials.
As expected, another prominent determinant of food consumption behavior of
this specific group of consumers is the health considerations for themselves and
their spouses. Many participants have revised their food purchase patterns to
achieve a 'leaner' diet. More chicken, turkey, fish, and vegetables are being
consumed with a reduction in red meat intake. Apparently, the change is prompted
by both advice received from their physicians and health/nutrition information
obtained elsewhere. In addition, the discussions suggest personal and spouse's
health status is directly related to participants' attention to the nutritional
values of foods as well as the extent of their behavioral change.
Joy of living appears to be another influential element in some
participants' minds when it comes to food selection. The role of this factor is
perhaps more important in this age group than in others. There is a common
feeling that, after all the years of hard work, time has finally arrived for a
reward for oneself to live for pleasure. These participants are willing to
indulge in the satisfaction of their taste buds even when they are health-
conscious at the same time. Hence, the seemingly contradictory behavior of
hanging on to red meats while avoiding them is a rational decision, from the
decision maker's point of view.
In regard to health concerns and enjoyment of life, a fundamental factor
that has important bearing on participants' behavior is the information
environment in which consumers find themselves today. It is evident from the
discussions that participants are in constant exposure to a vast amount of health
and nutrition information. Selection and understanding of the available
information is by itself a difficult task. worse yet, consumers are bewildered
by the often-inconsistent information disseminated by different sources. The
current blizzard of complex and sometimes conflicting nutritional information has
created much confusion in the minds of many consumers. A program to provide them
with concise and simple nutritional information could help to build brand
recognition and consumer loyalty.
Concerns about health ascend at the same time when confusions about
nutrition intensify. Consumers become frustrated and resort to some simplifying
rules as behavioral guides. One of such rules is to rely only on sources of
information which are deemed most reliable such as a person's own physician.
Second, independent sources are more trustworthy than others with commercial
affiliation. Third, public regulations are entrusted with the duty and capacity
to ensure provision of truthful nutrition and health information. Fourth, taste
satisfaction becomes a readily-available principle to follow.
Given the macro-setting of these participants' food, especially meat,
consumption, the appeals of new products that emphasize health and nutrition
value may be quite strong for this market segment. This is evident in
participants' positive responses toward product concepts such as turkey-beef or
chicken-beef hot dogs. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to also exploit the
opportunities furnished by participants' perceptions of the flavors of beef,
turkey, and chicken. An emphasis of beef's flavor in the blended products may
entice more interest than a simple nutritional claim.
The findings also give reason for optimism about market interest in
innovative packaging concepts as well as improved techniques for existing
promotional tools. It is learned that consumers have desires for resealable
packaging of processed meat items, divisible packaging for hot dogs and sausage,
and possibly ham. They also prefer hot dog packaging in which the number and
length of hot dogs match that of hot dog buns. Meanwhile, prepackaged processed
meat items face competition imposed by processed meats sold at deli. To better
compete, an effort can be made to offer a wider selection of package sizes and
product thicknesses, although this may not be economically feasible.
Consumers are not totally satisfied with the promotional tools being
employed in the marketplace. The dissatisfaction opens the door that a company
who introduces refined marketing formats to meet consumer needs can establish a
superior market position. For example, the length of coupon validity probably
can be extended to encourage redemption and ultimately use of a brand or product.
The use of 'cents-off for next purchase,' 'tear-off' recipes, and coupons
distributed in conjunction with recipes can be tested for market responses.
A particularly promising idea derived from these groups is the promotion
of some flexible recipes that (1) offer the options to make a dish "regular" or
"lean" according to the user's needs and preferences, and (2) balance taste
satisfaction and nutrition requirements. Purchases of foods, especially meat
items, are influenced by personal and household member's health status, which
vary from individual to individual. Yet, many consumers in these focus groups
do not appear willing to compromise too much enjoyment for health concerns.
Therefore, moderation can very well be the theme of these kinds of recipes. For
consumers with no health concerns, it is a wonderful experience to indulge in the
"regular" recipes of preferred foods. On the other hand, for those with health
problems, "lean" recipes may enable them to enjoy formerly forbidden items in
appropriate amounts so as not to deprive them of the "joy of life."
Finally, useful and desirable benefits can be provided to consumers through
informational approaches in the recipes. First, the recipe may emphasize a
balanced and healthy distribution of foods (meats, vegetables, fruits, etc.) in
a total diet. Second, the recipe can reveal its nutritional value in terms of
total calories per serving of a "healthy" combination of ingredients comprising
of a "lean" recipe rather than emphasizing the caloric content of specific
processed meat items. Third, the recipe can introduce convenient cooking methods
to reduce intakes of fat and sodium while preserving the foods' flavor. Fourth,
names of seasonings and functions of other supplementary ingredients can be
listed, which may appeal to significant numbers of consumers in thin age group.