Consumers and the conceptual and practical appropriation of functional foods

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Taking the appropriation of objects as a theoretical starting point, this study makes a distinction between a conceptual and practical level of adopting new objects and products in everyday life. The study applies the concept of appropriation in social food research and examines consumers appropriation of functional foods, i.e., foods developed to improve health and well-being or reduce the risk of disease beyond the usual nutritional effects of foods. The study uses the concept of appropriation to understand the adoption and the process of making functional foods our own . First, the study focuses on the conceptual appropriation by analysing consumers interpretations and opinions on functional foods. Second, it analyses the use of functional foods and examines the role of sociodemographic and food- and health-related background factors in the use of functional foods.

Both quantitative and qualitative data were used in the study. Altogether 1210 Finns representative of the population took part in a survey carried out in 2002 as computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI). The survey examined the acceptability and use of functional foods in Finland. In 2004, eight focus group discussions were organised for 45 users and non-users of cholesterol-lowering spreads. The qualitative study focused on consumers interpretative perspectives on healthy eating and functional foods. The findings are reported in four original articles and a summary article.

The results show that the appropriation of functional foods is a multifaceted phenomenon. The conceptual appropriation is related to consumers interpretations of functional foods in the context of healthy foods and healthy eating; their trust in the products, their manufacturers, research and control; and the relationship of functional foods and the ideal of natural foods. The analysis of the practical appropriation of four different types of foods marketed as functional showed that there are sociodemographic differences between users and non-users of the products, but more importantly, the differences are related to consumers food- and health-related views and practices. Consumers ways of appropriating functional foods in the conceptual and practical sense take shape in a complex web of ideas and everyday practices concerning food, health and eating as a whole.

The results also indicate that the conceptual and practical appropriation are not necessarily uniform or coherent processes. Consumers interpret healthy eating and functional foods from a variety of perspectives and there is a multiplicity of rationales of using functional foods. Appropriation embraces many opposing dimensions simultaneously: good experiences and doubts, approval and criticism, expectations and things taken for granted.
Tryckta ISBN978-951-698-173-7
Elektroniska ISBN978-951-698-174-4
StatusPublicerad - 2008
MoE-publikationstypG5 Doktorsavhandling (artikel)

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