by kristen_mooney on April 13, 2015 - 3:37pm
Behavior is strongly influenced by the psychological factor of perception. Tying that into the food industry, more specifically animal industry, perceptions of meat varies- specifically between two different contexts: “everyday context” (relating to buying, preparing and eating) and the “production context” (relating to primary production, slaughtering and meat processing). Consumer perceptions are not set in stone and may change, however, how and in what direction consumer perceptions alter is difficult to foresee because of the amount of complexity that drives the change.
In every marketing situation, suppliers aim to increase their sales by determining what drives their customers' purchase choices. Without consumers, suppliers are nothing. Perception in this context not only relates to basic senses such as visual, flavor and taste attributes, but also to (already) shaped learning or experiences. In order for consumers to willingly purchase and consume a particular food sort, their perceptions must be positive and confident towards it. "Texture and flavour have long since been known to exert an effect on consumer perception. However, the “first taste is almost always with the eye”. This is especially the case where a food product is sold through its appearance, rather than through its packaging. In addition, appearance can have a halo effect which modifies subsequent flavour perception and food acceptability" (Imram 1999).
If you lead the buyer to believe that the meat they are purchasing is healthy, humane, and justifiable (all of which are most likely untrue), they will feel much sounder about their purchase. Regarding food (particularly meat), it is normally understood that consumer perception of meat relates to its quality in a broad sense. For example, what qualities do you often look for when purchasing meat from a grocery store: meat color, package type, visible fat, tenderness, succulence, nutrition value, and in some (rare) cases, ethics (Troy, Kerry 2010)?
Since we consumers often base our purchase choices on the superficial quality indications, it is absolutely essential that the meat industry fully understands and recognizes what these cues are, which are the most important, and what (if anything) can they (producers, processors and retailers) do in order to maintain or enhance these cues in existing or new products. Although difficult questions to address, if properly taken into account, they could successfully address the consumer’s needs and desires (Troy, Kerry 2010).
We are all victims to marketing scams, improper labeling, and overall, a lack of education and knowledge when it comes to promotion practices of large industries. If we find a way to learn how to overlook and move past these obstacles, we will break free from the never ending cycle of misleading advertising. Remember: perception is everything.
Imram, N. (1999). The role of visual cues in consumer perception and acceptance of a food product. Nutrition & Food Science, 99(5), 224-230.
Troy, D. J., & Kerry, J. P. (2010). Consumer perception and the role of science in the meat industry. Meat Science, 86(1), 214-226.