THE CONSUMERS' INTENTION TO PURCHASE FOOD: THE ROLE OF PERCEIVED RISK.

Author:Nam, Nguyen Kim
Position:Abstract
 
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INTRODUCTION

Food is considered as a vital product that people consume daily in their meals. Due to the rapid development of science & technology, and the expansion of trade between regions and countries, food supply has become diverse and abundant. In spite of that, the issue of safety, hygiene and quality of food remains a complicated problem for the authorities as well as authentic companies and above all, a serious problem for consumers. Recently, the mass media has reported a wide range of information related to food safety, such as food insecurity: injecting tranquillizer into pigs before slaughtering, meat containing beta-adrenergic agonists, the antibiotic residues which are in excess of the allowed threshold, these all confuse consumers and cause damage to companies.

Currently, food insecurity issues are increasing at an alarming rate. This not only affects the development of agriculture and the business situation of food companies, but also threatens consumers' health. In the situation when food safety risks occur, risk perception plays an important role in explaining consumers' purchase intentions. In addition, it is difficult for consumers to recognize which food is safe or unsafe, which may leads to the increase of consumers' risk perception when choosing which food to buy.

There has been a wide range of studies in the world investigating consumer food choice behaviour, in which the aspect of food safety risk is emphasizes. However, the number of studies related to this topic in developing countries such as Vietnam is still relatively modest, only a few studies have addressed the risk-perception aspect of consumers when choosing fish products for daily meals, like studies carried out by Tuu & Olsen (2009:2012). However, these studies only examining normal situations while the occurrence of food safety incidents have not been mentioned. Additionally, these studies have not considered the relationship between risk reduction strategies and risk perceptions in contexts which related to food safety. Hence, it is necessary to study how to reduce consumers' risk perceptions and the level of impact that risk perception has on customers' consumption intention in the Vietnamese market. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to determine the effect of risk perception on consumers' purchase intentions in situations when food safety incidents occur or not and the impact of risk reduction strategies on risk perception.

In Vietnam, pork is a popular dish in daily meals of every family. The price of pork is also modest compared to other types of meat; it is not too sensitive to risk and its risk is not too high. Besides, pork has been subject to several food safety incidents, so it is appropriate for the division of situations to conduct the research. For all the above reasons, pork is chosen to represent food in order to investigate consumers' purchase intention in the context of food safety risk.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

Theory of Reasoned Action

The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) was proposed by Fishbein & Ajzen (1975). This theory assumes that an individual's behavior is determined directly by the intention of his or her behavior, the intention, in turn, is influenced by the attitude (the positive or negative evaluation when performing that action) and by subjective norms (feelings of social pressure to do or not to do that action). According to this theory, human behavior is a combination of behavioral belief and normative belief (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). Behavioral beliefs are beliefs in the outcomes of action, which produce positive or negative attitudes toward the behavior. Normative beliefs, on the other hand, relate to social pressure. As for behavioral intention, it is an estimate of the likelihood that he or she will engage in a given behavior (Thong & Olsen, 2012). According to Ajzen (1991), intention is considered as motivation to engage in a given behavior and it expresses an individual's expectations of their behaviors in a particular environment.

Although the TRA theory has been applied to explain the consumption intention in the food sector, the level of interpretation of the TRA is remained limited. In the context of food safety, some researchers have added risk perception to the model to increase the explanation for behavioral intention (Stefani et al., 2008). Stefani et al. (2008) suggest that in terms of consciousness, risk perception is viewed as belief in an outcome of a behavior, as for another approach emphasizing social and cultural processes, risk perception is considered as a structure which is separate from the belief in the outcome. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) is developed from the TRA theory by adding a component of perceived behavioral control. Perceived behavioral control measures the level of confidence in an individual's ability to perform behavior (Lobb et al., 2007). However, in this study we select TRA because in Vietnam pork is a common and popular food, widely available and cheaper than other types of meat. For that reason, perceived behavioral control is not addressed.

Attitude

Behavioral attitude is defined as a psychological tendency expressed through the assessment of a particular object, such as a food product (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). If a person is aware that the result of a behavior is positive, they will have a positive attitude to do it. In contrast, they may also have negative attitudes if that behavior is judged as negative. Attitude is considered to be the main predictor of intention to purchase food, but the significance level of this correlation differs in each study (Scalco et al., 2017). In Vietnam, the correlation between attitude and intention to buy fish is in the range of 0.46 to 0.57 (Thong & Olsen, 2012; Tuu, 2015). Before further discussion, the following hypothesis is to be formulated.

H1: Attitude has a positive effect on intention.

Subjective Norms

Subjective norms refer to social pressure to perform or not to perform a behavior. Subjective norms may be influenced by relatives such as friends, family members, colleagues, doctors (Lobb et al., 2007). If the other involved people find that the behavior is positive and the individual is motivated to fulfil the expectations of those involved people, then there will be a positive subjective norm. If the other involved people consider the behavior to be negative and the individual wishes to satisfy the expectations of these people, then they may have a negative subjective norm. Subjective norms not only directly influence the intention (Lobb et al., 2007) but also indirectly influence the intention through the mediating role of attitudes (Bamberg et al., 2007; Tarkiainen & Sundqvist, 2005). Based on the above discussions, the following hypothesis is proposed.

H2: Subjective norms have a positive effect on intention.

H3: Subjective norms have a positive effect on attitude.

Perceived Risk

Risk perception related to food safety is considered as a crucial factor in explaining consumer behavioral intention. The development of the theory of risk perception in the field of buying behavior began in the 1960s. Cox (1967) argues that risk perception is a function of uncertainty and ultimate failure to meet its goal, the risk reduction can be achieved by increasing certainty or reducing the consequence. Conchar et al. (2004) indicate that in the theory of consumer behavioral, there has not been any widely accepted definition of risk perception and the definition of risk perception often differs according to research contexts. Dowling & Staeling (1994), for example, define risk perception as a negative and uncertain consequence of buying a product or service. Yeung & Morris (2001) suggest that risk perception is an individual's assessment of the probability of damaging consequences and the magnitude of those possible consequences.

Bauer (1967) states that consumer behavior is associated with risk, as consumers make purchases; they may receive positive or negative results which consumers can not anticipate. Risk perception has a considerable influence on buying decisions since consumers tend to avoid mistakes when choosing...

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