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Motivation outweighs ability in explaining European consumers’ use of health claims

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  • Yung Hung , Ghent University
  • ,
  • Klaus G. Grunert
  • Christine Hoefkens , Ghent University
  • ,
  • Sophie Hieke, European Food Information Council (EUFIC)
  • ,
  • Wim Verbeke, Ghent University
Health claims promise health benefits beyond basic nutrition, but their impact on food choices is largely
determined by consumers’ motivation and ability to process these claims. This study investigates the role
of consumers’ motivation and ability to process health claims as well as attitudinal and cognitive determinants
in explaining the use of health claims. Data were collected in Spring 2014 through a crosssectional
quantitative online survey with samples representative for age, gender and region in 10
European countries: United Kingdom, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Slovenia, Czech Republic,
France, Denmark, Greece, and Lithuania (n = 5337). Structural equation modelling was used to simultaneously
estimate the strength and direction of effects between motivation and ability to process, various
determinants, and two components of health claim use. Motivation to process emerged as a key determinant
of European consumers’ use of health claims. Ability to process impacted claim use to a much smaller
extent, but was strongly and positively influenced by the motivation to process. In order to be
motivated, consumers are required to experience a need for health-related information, which in turn
is driven by an interest in healthy eating. Participants with greater health claim-related knowledge
tended to be more able but less motivated to process health claims. There were no substantial differences
in the tested model between countries that had regulation for health claims prior to 2006 and those that
did not, despite the considerable differences in their historical and current prevalence of health claims.
Therefore, European food and nutrition policies and marketing strategies should focus on ways to
improve consumers’ motivation to process health claims by increasing their interest in healthy eating
and need for health-related information.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Pages (from-to)34-44
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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