Analysis of Factors Influencing Willingness to Pay Extra for Functional Foods

Szakály, Zoltán – Soós, Mihály – Kovács, Sándor – Polereczki, Zsolt

Keywords: consumer beliefs, attitudes, behaviour change, functional foods, willingness to pay, Q13

Almost 100% of the population are aware of the fact that the leading causes of death in Hungary are malignant tumour and cardiovascular diseases, and many know about the connection between diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. This positive judgement is spoilt by the research result according to which 35% of the Hungarian population think that overweight and obesity cannot lead to chronic, deadly diseases, which refers to serious lack of information.
The Hungarian consumers’ subjective knowledge about functional foods does not show such a positive picture. In the case of all the statements, the American consumers. have higher levels of information than the Hungarian population. This lower level of knowledge is likely to explain why part of the Hungarian population is mistrustful of functional foods, and this is why it is important to make Hungarian purchasers familiar with the functional food concept.
The problem is that the population’s subjective state of health, which is based on their own assessment, is significantly different from the objective situation. Obesity and overweight arise again because, compared to the true situation, the population significantly underestimates their bodyweight and only 25% of the respondents think that their bodyweight is different from (bigger than) normal. Another problem is that some of the respondents do not believe that they can control their own health, but rather they overestimate the factors that are out of their control and regard their state of health as inevitable. Hence, it is not surprising that almost 50% of the population are not planning to switch to a healthier diet.
Trust for functional foods is lower in Hungary than in the United States. But a sign of mistrust is that in Hungary 40% think that functional foods have harmful effects on health. Hungarian consumers do not believe that health protective foods can have the same good taste as traditional foods that are available in stores. The following result is not too encouraging either: according to one in three Hungarian consumers, the functional food concept is just temporary and will soon become outdated.
After this it is not surprising that consumers are unwilling to pay extra for functional foods. Owing to the lack of “mature” attitudes, conscious behaviour is far less characteristic of the Hungarian consumers. This group mainly includes women, households with higher qualifications and income, people performing knowledge-intensive work and primary food purchasers.