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Food neophobia and ethnic food consumption intention: An extension of the theory of planned behaviour

Hiram Ting (Institute of Borneo Studies, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan, Malaysia)
Ernest Cyril de Run (Faculty of Economics and Business, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan, Malaysia)
Jun-Hwa Cheah (Faculty of Economics and Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Malaysia)
Francis Chuah (School of Business and Management, College of Business, Universiti Utara Malaysia, Sintok, Malaysia)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 7 November 2016




The purpose of this paper is to serve as groundwork to investigate the determinants of ethnic food consumption intention in the context of developing markets. Using the theory of planned behaviour as the underlying basis, it is aimed to explain the effect of attitude, subjective norm and perceived behaviour control on consumption intention towards Dayak food. Since Dayak food is relatively unfamiliar compared to conventional food in Malaysia, food neophobia is incorporated into the model so as to assess its moderation effect on every postulated relationship.


A quantitative approach via self-administered questionnaire was adopted. In all, 300 copies of the questionnaire were distributed to non-Dayak Malaysians, and 211 usable copies were subsequently collected, suggesting that non-response bias was not a major issue. A post hoc Harman single-factor analysis was also performed to ensure the variance in the data was not explained by one single factor, thus addressing the common method bias. Structural equation modelling using partial least squares approach was then utilized to assess the relationships of variables under investigation and the moderation effect of food neophobia.


After ensuring the data have acceptable reliability and validity, structural model assessment was performed to test the hypotheses. The findings show that attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control all have positive effect on consumption intention of non-Dayak Malaysians towards Dayak food. However, food neophobia is only found to have a moderation effect on the relationship between subjective norm and consumption intention.

Research limitations/implications

First, the sample is largely consisted of college and university students in Malaysia who are believed to be more daring to try new things, including new food. Second and more importantly, the dearth of literature and empirical studies on Dayak food and ethnic food in Malaysia might have actually pointed to the limitation in using only quantitative questionnaire in the study. As salient beliefs are the antecedents in the theory of planned behaviour, knowing consumers’ specific beliefs about Dayak food would have provided a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of consumption intention and the moderating effect of food neophobia.

Practical implications

The moderation effect of food neophobia on the relationship between subjective norm and consumption intention towards Dayak food implies the importance of recommendations and favourable word-of-mouth from the significant ones, such as family members and peers, to make people willing to try and consume it. This corresponds to earlier findings pertaining to the collectivistic culture in Malaysia. Unlike countries with individualistic cultures, Malaysians tend to conform to the consumption choices of significant others. This implies that those whom they hold in high regard, are able to influence them both positively and negatively through their advice or opinions.


The present study has not only extended the use of theory of planned behaviour in the context of Dayak food consumption intention in a developing country, but it has also deepened the theory by incorporating food neophobia as the moderator to provide additional theoretical explanation to ethnic food consumption intention. Given the wealth of Asian culture, and its significant role in the global marketplace, the understanding of ethnic food consumption intention of the local and foreign consumers using the extended theory of planned behaviour would contribute knowledge not only to consumer behaviour, but also to food and service industry and tourism.



This paper is based on research at the Institute of Borneo Studies, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) under Dayak Chair Grant (Grant No. F01/(DRC)/1339/2016(3)).


Ting, H., de Run, E.C., Cheah, J.-H. and Chuah, F. (2016), "Food neophobia and ethnic food consumption intention: An extension of the theory of planned behaviour", British Food Journal, Vol. 118 No. 11, pp. 2781-2797.



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