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Indulgent snack experience attributes and healthy choice alternatives

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Purpose ‐ The aim of this article is to examine the perception of various snack alternatives and the relevant negative and positive associations they may have with key adult groups, including any potential barriers and drivers relating to the uptake of healthier snack options. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The approach takes the form of a qualitative focus group study involving a series of key adult consumer groups, including those deemed more likely and those less likely to take up healthy snack options. Findings ‐ Despite increased health factor awareness across key adult snacking groups, there remains a perception of food "snacks" as a worthwhile, if basically unhealthy, "treat" within their overall food consumption. Many adults did show some concerns about specific diet and health-related aspects of many snack products and would like to be tempted by healthier versions. Amongst the drivers for healthy snack uptake, local source attributes were generally rated highly by all; these and other "natural" and "healthy" snack claims, including fairtrade and organic labels, were positively received provided that the key, hedonic "treat" experience attributes could still be delivered. When considering the provision of snacks for children, the customers' choice processes appeared to be much more health-based, showing apparent "nest" snack choice behaviours ‐ or stronger "nesting" behaviours in mothers of young children. Research limitations/implications ‐ The study was restricted to a relatively small sample in an area limited to the county of Dorset in the South of England, potentially more focused on countryside local foods. Practical implications ‐ Areas of marketing focus are suggested that could promote healthy snack choices in adult consumers. Originality/value ‐ The paper examines snacks within the desired snack experience dimensions of key consumer groups and suggests key attributes, associations and thinking-processes behind healthy snack choice behaviours.
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Keywords: Consumer behaviour; Diet; Food products; Health foods; United Kingdom

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 16 May 2009

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