|dc.description.abstract||BACKGROUND AND MOTIVATION:
This study had been motivated by the lack of existing data on South African
consumers' perceptions of food labels and its relevance to purchasing behaviour. In
order to gather this information it is important to understand consumers and their
purchasing behaviour so that these could be translated into food label characteristics
to implement consumer-oriented label development (Sijtsema et al., 2002:565).
Consumers' purchasing behaviour is influenced by the way they perceive food labels
as the image consumers have of a product is derived from their perception thereof.
These perceptions may subsequently influence the purchasing behaviour of
consumers (Foxall et al., 1998:53).
A phenomenological approach was used to ensure that the researcher penetrated as
deeply as possible into the research participant's internal, personal world (Hayes,
2000:188). To follow through with this approach, a qualitative research strategy was
used in the present study as it is considered a scientific, reliable method to investigate
consumers' opinions and perceptions (Ratcliff, 2003). Nine focus group sessions,
with a total of 55 label reading participants, were conducted in Potchefstroom, North-
West Province. According to Struwig and Stead (2001:98) the focus group is the best
method to gather information on consumer perceptions by means of in depth
discussions. The data were documented by taking notes and transcriptions of tape
recordings of the focus group sessions. Content analysis was performed by
categorizing and summarizing data in themes and concepts to facilitate the
description and interpretation of the findings.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION:
To comprehend results of this study, a food perception model was adapted and
applied on food labels. It was found that specific items on the ingredient list and
nutrition information as well as personal factors contributed to the general perception
of food products as well as perceptions of food labels. This adapted model thus
illustrates consumers' perceptions of food labels and its influence on purchasing
behaviour. Consumers' purchasing behaviour of food products was found to be
influenced to different extents by their perceptions of food labels.
From this study it is evident that there are various reasons why consumers read food
labels. Although consumers do not read nor necessarily use all the information on the
label, some of them consider it of importance for members of their families. A few
consumers were sceptical about some health related claims on food products
because they doubt its scientific truth and validity. Therefore, it would be advised to
educate consumers regarding label reading and interpretation food labels in general.||