This study sets out to explore how consumers evaluate unbranded and unlabelled food products and to what extent they are able to select the products with the highest potential to meet their expectations regarding eating quality.
The study focused on Portuguese consumers and their purchase of bacalhau, i.e. salted and dried cod, which is sold unpacked, unbranded and unlabelled in supermarkets. The collection of data encompassed observations of shoppers in supermarkets, individual interviews and focus groups with consumers, and a consumer panel that conducted quality assessments and rankings of nine different bacalhaus and subsequent taste assessments of the same products following desalting and cooking.
Results indicate that Portuguese consumers – in spite of substantial experience with buying, preparing and consuming bacalhau – are uncertain in their in‐store quality assessment. Shoppers used multiple criteria to assess the quality of the bacalhau, such as the appearance and dryness of the product. Some rather curious quality criteria that were not related to “objective” product quality were also discerned. Touching the dried and salted cod trying to “feel” the quality was common. Some even broke the fish tail to assess the dryness. Findings from the consumer panel showed large discrepancies between how the same products were assessed before and after desalting and cooking.
The study is limited to one food product and one national market. Marketing implications, such as focus on packaging, quality labelling, and branding are discussed, as well as implications for future research.
The paper shows that although unlabelled and unbranded food products are common, relatively little research addressing how consumers assess such products in a wider sense, including which strategies consumers apply and to what extent they are able to select products that meet or exceed their expectations regarding eating quality, has been conducted. The paper also addresses the role cultural rules and rituals may play in the assessment of traditional food products such as bacalhau.
Sogn‐Grundvåg, G. and Østli, J. (2009), "Consumer evaluation of unbranded and unlabelled food products: The case of bacalhau", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 43 No. 1/2, pp. 213-228. https://doi.org/10.1108/03090560910923300Download as .RIS
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