Marketing health‐enhancing foods: implications from the dairy sector

Gillian Armstrong (School of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland)
Heather Farley (School of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland)
Jennifer Gray (Allied Bakeries Ltd., Belfast, Northern Ireland)
Mark Durkin (On sabbatical leave from the University of Ulster, at the Department of Marketing, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To assess the potential for development in the agri‐food sector by investigating: consumer awareness of health‐enhancing foods; key influences on their perceptions of and attitudes towards these foods; their relevant purchasing behaviour in the context of the Northern Irish dairy products market. To develop recommendations for future segmentation and positioning strategies for health‐enhancing dairy foods.


Northern Ireland is a geographically discrete area of the United Kingdom, which relies heavily on the agri‐food industry in general, and the dairy sector in particular. A consumer questionnaire was adapted from previous studies. After two pilot studies with 30 and 50 consumers, 600 were administered face‐to‐face to a quota sample of male and female shoppers in six key supermarkets across Northern Ireland. Results were collated and analysed by SPSS. Descriptive parametric and non‐parametric statistics re‐reported in findings.


There is potential for the agri‐food industry to expand further, particularly in the case of added‐value food products, among which health‐enhancing foods should be treated as an important subset. However, a pre‐requisite is development of enhanced consumer segmentation and product positioning strategies.

Research limitations/implications

The findings and conclusions derive from one study of one specialist product type in one small national market. Generalisation should be possible, at least informally, but comparative studies are indicated.

Practical implications

The findings indicated a general lack of awareness of the health‐enhancing food concept and the level of (largely proven) health benefits of such products, which is a barrier to their wider adoption of these products. The key aims goals for marketing planners in this context are thus awareness generation and consumer education. The crucial segments of the general target audience and the core message to be conveyed, are both defined by the findings.


This study provides a research‐based foundation for a more proactive and informed marketing strategy in a particular context, potentially transferable to other market sectors and locations.



Armstrong, G., Farley, H., Gray, J. and Durkin, M. (2005), "Marketing health‐enhancing foods: implications from the dairy sector", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 23 No. 7, pp. 705-719.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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