The role of knowledge on the effect of external influences on the food information search of working female consumers
Serving as the gatekeepers of their households, women are also part of the labour force. Research indicates that women are still mainly responsible for establishing healthy eating patterns in their households, thus in general responsible for selecting the food products that enter their homes. However, working female consumers often lack the time and sometimes sufficient knowledge to make informed, healthy food decisions. According to previous research, objective knowledge and subjective knowledge are both strongly associated with self-reported nutritional label use, regardless of health-related attributes. The influence of objective and subjective knowledge in decision making begins to differ when consumers are unfamiliar with a product. Consumers should possess sufficient objective knowledge to make reliable food choices when shopping for groceries. Insufficient objective and subjective knowledge lead to avoidance of the nutritional information on food labels. The study proposes that having the necessary objective and subjective knowledge regarding healthy foods may assist working female consumers during their pre-purchase information search by using the relevant information on food labels, while external influences may also play a role in their decisions. Research on the importance of external influences during the in-store food label search for high-frequency food products is needed to understand particular influences that working female consumers regard as important during purchasing decisions. Consumers rely on their knowledge and often external aspects such as price, brand and other marketing efforts during their pre-purchase information search. There is, however, a gap in current literature regarding the association between knowledge about the healthiness of food and external influences during full-time working female consumers’ pre-purchase information search regarding high-frequency food products. Therefore, this study aimed to determine the mediating role of objective and subjective knowledge of working women regarding the healthiness of food in the effect of external influences on their pre-purchase information search for high-frequency food products. This study employed a quantitative, descriptive, cross-sectional survey design. Data were collected from a purposively selected sample of South African full-time working female consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 years (N = 223) using online questionnaires. Construct validity was determined for all the scales using exploratory factor analysis. Internal reliability of the yielded factors was ensured using Cronbach alpha values. The results indicated that respondents had high levels of objective knowledge regarding the healthiness of food (82.43% correct) and SK (measured on a five-point Likert scale) of frequently consumed healthy foods (mean = 4.03) and nutrient intake limitations (mean = 3.82). Besides, convenience (mean = 3.74), as well as price and product comparisons (mean = 3.53) were considered to be more important external influences (measured on a five-point Likert scale) than visual attributes (mean = 2.56) during these respondents’ information search. The importance of these aspects may be due to the lack of time they have to search for information in-store. The respondents indicated that expiry date (mean = 3.30), nutritional value and ingredients (mean = 2.54) were more important (measured on a five-point Likert scale) aspects on food labels than claims (mean = 2.19) and allergens (mean = 2.17). These findings agree with previous research stating that consumers with adequate levels of knowledge are more likely to make use of nutritional information and ingredient lists. In conclusion, according to the structural equation model, objective knowledge or subjective knowledge did not mediate external influences such as price, visual attributes, and convenience, since these influences had a direct influence on the in-store information search process based on the labels of frequently purchased food. Objective knowledge has had no mediating effect on the pre-purchase information search process. These findings are contradicting to previous research showing that subjective knowledge has a positive effect on the use of external factors. However, subjective knowledge has had a mediating effect on respondents experiencing the external influence of a family need for exclusion of some ingredients (allergens and those due to diabetes) during their food label-based information search. Therefore, it is important to understand that subjective knowledge has only had a mediating effect on respondents’ information search in-store, when exposed to a family-related external influence. The study thus contributes to a better understanding of this population group’s information search process and indicates that the women in the study are still playing a gatekeeping role in the wellness of their households.
- Health Sciences