Regulating Health Foods
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Regulating Health Foods

Policy Challenges and Consumer Conundrums

Jill E. Hobbs, Stavroula Malla, Eric K. Sogah and May T. Yeung

With ageing populations, rising incomes and a growing recognition of the link between diet and health, consumers are interested in new food products, supplements and ingredients with purported health benefits. The food industry has responded with new food innovations, formulations and enhancements that comprise the growing health food market, manifesting the need to design regulatory frameworks to govern valid health claims.
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Chapter 7: Consumer responses to health foods

Jill E. Hobbs, Stavroula Malla, Eric K. Sogah and May T. Yeung


The growth of the health foods sector is dependent on continued consumer demand for these products. A growing literature charts consumer awareness and acceptance of health foods and assesses consumer willingness to pay (WTP) for health benefits. This chapter summarizes key insights from this literature. A brief overview of the primary methodological approaches used in the consumer literature is provided in Section 7.1 as a precursor to the discussion of the literature in section 7.2. Section 7.3 concludes the chapter with an assessment of the key messages arising from this body of research. Researchers interested in examining consumer awareness of health food products, their acceptance of new functional ingredients and their WTP for these products usually turn to survey methodologies to gather data for their analyses. Surveys enable researchers to gather data on consumers’ attitudes and preferences, the factors shaping attitudes and in particular, are useful in exploring the market potential for new functional foods or ingredients that may not yet be available commercially. A considerable number of the consumer research studies summarized in Section 7.2 use Stated Preference survey techniques. This encompasses a family of methodologies in which consumer preferences are elicited through requesting that respondents indicate their preferences for a product or product attribute in a survey. This differs from Revealed Preference data in which preferences are inferred from real market data reflecting actual purchases.

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