|dc.description.abstract||The primary objective of this study was to apply the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasive communication to consumers' perceptions of food additive labelling. The model was used to explain how consumer information processing influences consumers' decision-making and consequent purchasing behaviour with regard to food products that contain food additives. To date, few studies have explained consumers' perceptions, viewpoints and understanding of additive labelling, or of their related purchasing behaviour. However, the increased marketing of processed foods containing additives and the concern expressed by consumers regarding the risks of additives call for the development of a theoretical basis for research into these issues. There is currently a lack of such data in South Africa.
This study was conducted from a phenomenological qualitative approach with a descriptive exploratory nature. Eight focus group sessions with 39 food additive label readers were held in the Vanderbijlpark-Vereeniging area. A content analysis of the focus group discussions resulted in the categorising of concepts, and 33 subtle underlying themes were identified.
The main findings of the study were that the participants' general perceptions suggested that food additives can be defined as unnatural chemical substances that are added to food and that hold some benefits and/or risks to the consumer. The participants' use of food additive information was influenced by the situational factors associated with each individual participant. Moreover, the participants were more aware of tartrazine, MSG and aspartame than of any other food additive.
Participants were also confronted with various blocking mechanisms when searching for and selecting food products containing additives. These included a lack of standardisation of terminology, illegible ingredient listing, a lack of food control and regulation, information overload, incomprehensible information, manufacturers' dishonesty, time constraints and incorrect, untrustworthy, insufficient information. On the other hand, participants used various coping or risk-reducing strategies to reduce their concerns.
In order to interpret the results, the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasive communication was adapted and applied to food additive labels. The adapted model illustrates how the consumers' perceptions of additive labels and their search for additional information influence their purchasing behaviour to varying extents. It is recommended that more attention be given to consumer education with regard to additive-related terminology used on food labels and that the results be put to use in the current revision of labelling regulations. Marketers and retailers could use the information to better understand the behaviour of consumers who read food additive labels. The value of this study was to show that consumers' prior perceptions of food additives are an important determinant of their purchasing behaviour,||