Published in AgroLife Scientific Journal, Vol. II, Number 1
Written by Alexandra POPA (JURCOANE), Petru NICULIŢĂ
The success of newly developed food products on the market mainly depends on how they are perceived by consumers. Thus, the aim of this research paper is to explore consumer perception of food innovation in order to improve marketing strategies of new product development. This paper is part of an on-going doctoral research project POSDRU/ 107/ 1.5/ S/ 76888. Methodology - Past behaviour, habits and hedonic appreciation appear in literature as good predictors of food choice. Thus, consumer ethnography drawing on eating habits is used to explore evolving consumer behaviour with regard to purchasing and consumption of novel food products. Triangulated qualitative in-depth interviews involving 12 participants in Bucharest, Romania, combined with in-home visits and 7-day food diaries, were employed. Results and Discussion - Romanian consumers seem to explore less when buying or cooking food, as they struggle with lack of time and daily stress. In other words, consumers prefer the ‘safer’ and more time-efficient familiar foods to new culinary experiences. Nonetheless, consumers seek variety in their diets, but cautiously: products already tested and recommended by friends and family or slightly different forms of known foods (e.g. new flavours of preferred brand, frozen or pre-cooked familiar products). Food innovation is generally related to value-adding benefits in terms of health and convenience, and to some concerns regarding perceived naturalness and sensory qualities, as it is the case of functional food products. Conclusions - The study concludes that in a fairly traditional culture as the case of Romania, positioning new food products as line extensions of well-known brands or as new value-added offers from typical food categories could ease innovation adoption and increase consumer acceptance. This study adds to the scarce literature that focuses on Romanian consumers’ views, attitudes and perceptions with regard to food innovation.