Understanding the relative importance of product attributes influencing food
choice at the point of sale is mostly important to the success in today competitive
food markets. For many years, conjoint analysis has been used to estimate the
importance of various products attributes for consumers purchasing decisions
(Green and Srinivasan, 1978, 1990;
Enneking et al., 2007). Packaging seems to be
one of the most important factors in purchase decisions made at the point of
sale (Prendergast and Pitt, 1996). Packaging is also
a key food product attribute perceived by consumers. There is no escaping the
fact that packaging performs marketing function, even if a company does not
explicitly recognize the marketing aspects of packaging. In addition, with the
move to self-service retail formats, packaging increases its key characteristic
as the salesman on the shelf at the point of sale. The critical importance of
packaging design is growing in such competitive market conditions, as package
becomes a primary vehicle for communication and branding (Rettie
and Brewer, 2000).
The previous studies showed that although the managerial focus toward packaging
has increased, a review of the marketing literature reveals few theoretical
contributions in the area of packaging and relatively few efforts in relation
to its impact on the marketing function such as consumer behavior (Rundh, 2005).
Some of the most important research in this field is summarized in Table
The package is a critical factor in the decision-making process because it
communicates to consumers. The package standing on the shelf, affects the consumer
decision process and package design must ensure that consumer response is favorable
(Silayoi and Speece, 2004). However, several conflicting trends in consumer
decision making has made the food package design challenging. Some consumers
are paying more attention to label information, as they become more concerned
about health and nutrition issues (Coulson, 2000).
The following discussion examined how packaging influences purchase decisions
for packaged food products. While, these are important issues, there are few
comprehensive studies on how packaging elements influence consumer behavior
during the different stages of purchase decision. The studies on consumer behavior
(Solomon et al., 1999), regarding the type of decision
process and the stage of decision and consumption also provided a useful framework
for this study. The aim of this study was to form a better understanding of
the relationship between packaging and consumer purchase behavior during the
different process of consumer decision-making in Iranian food consumers points
Analysis of consumer purchasing decisions is not uncommon and a body of knowledge
has developed (Watson et al., 2002). There are
several models and theories which describe consumer behavior from a specific
perspective. Among all these models, the purchase decision model helps to understand
the relation between consumer behavior variables better than the other models.
Since, this model provides a specific framework of different processes and stages
of consumer behavior (Rau and Saeed, 1981; Vignali
et al., 2001).
Consumer decision-making can be defined as a mental orientation characterizing
a consumers approach to making choice (Lysonski et
al., 1996). Intention to purchase depends on the degree to which consumers
expect the product to satisfy them, when they consume it (Kupiec
and Revell, 2001). How they perceive the product depends on communication
elements, which become the key to success for many marketing strategies.
Davis and Rigaux (1974) were the first authors who
introduced different stages within the decision-making process. Specifically,
they divided the process into three stages: problem recognition, search for
internal and external information and final decision. They supposed that it
made no sense to include an evaluation of alternatives stage prior to the final
decision (Dewey, 1910) and numerous papers have demonstrated
that this would be found within the second stage. Following the same line, there
are other series of papers which have considered either more or fewer stages.
For example, Woodside and Motes (1979) considered a
total of nine stages, due to the fact that they considered very concrete decisions,
such as style, size and brand. In each stage; Putnam and Davidson
(1987) considered the final decision in two stages, namely where to buy
and which brand to buy; Webster (1994) included the
evaluation of alternatives stage and one final stage, which of post-purchase,
aimed at reflecting the valuation of the purchasers with respect to the decision
The model proposed by William (1994), considers consumer
behavior process as a three stages process in which consumer do specific activities
at each stage. This model is formed based on the purchase decision making process.
William (1994) believed the study of consumer decision
making includes the analysis of how people make their choices among different
alternatives, the analysis of pre-purchase and post-purchase processes.
The pre-purchase activities are at the initial stage of decision making process
and when someone has been aroused to purchase. These activities are highly important
for both consumers and marketers since, the results of these activities define
when and where consumers will buy a specific product (William,
1994). This stage consist of two major parts: The recognition of the problem
and the awareness that the solution may take the form of filling certain needs
through a purchase. The recognition of a problem can derive from numerous external
and internal directions. The second part of this stage is an awareness of the
direction where the best solution to the problem is most likely to be. After
acquiring information and learning about alternatives, consumers define a set
of determinant attributes (Alpert, 1971) to use to compare
and evaluate brands in a particular product class. After comparing available
brands with respect to each of the attributes, consumers eliminate some alternatives
and develop finalchoice sets of brands from which to choose (Louviere,
The process by which consumers compare brands on sets of determinant attributes,
form final choice sets and make choices is complicated but at some points the
consumer should stop looking for and evaluating information and should make
his choice. The purchase choice includes the product itself, the packaging,
the store and the purchase method. At this stage, when the consumers choose
the brand and the store then, the purchase process is made. This is what Wilkie
called purchase process (Hawkins and Gilson, 1992; William,
Post-purchase process occurs after the purchase because the decision-making
process is not over when the purchase is made (William, 1994).
Consumers evaluate their decision and use it in their future decisions. The
result of all these processes is the consumer satisfaction which leads to either
consumer loyalty or trying different brands alternatively (Szymanski
and Henrad, 2001). Consumers during their decision-making process rely on
different attributes before deciding whether to buy or consume a certain food
product (Ragaert et al., 2004). In addition,
evaluative criteria may change depending on the stage of the decision making
process (Pre-Purchase, Purchase and Post-Purchase) (Gardial
et al., 1994). This suggests that consumers might give different
importance to a certain attribute when deciding to purchase or to consume a
food product (Ares et al., 2008). Based on this,
the packages overall characteristics can underline the uniqueness and
originality of the product. In addition, product quality judgments are largely
influenced by product characteristics reflected by packaging between different
stages of decision making process. If it communicates high, consumers assume
that the product is of high quality. If the package represents low quality,
consumers link this low quality perception to the product itself. The package
communicates favorable or unfavorable implied meaning about the product (Rundh,
2005; Silayoi and Speece, 2004). We look at these
various elements in more details in the remainder of this section, to examine
how consumers are likely to use each one.
Packaging is defined as the technology and art of preparing a commodity for
convenient transport, storage and sale (Jahre and Hatteland,
2004). From the packaging literature, it can be revealed that packaging
is fulfilling a multiple purposes in relation to a firms external activity,
even if this cannot be found to the same extent in different studies. If compared
with its relevant functions in the marketing literature a theoretical framework
has been worked out where previous research efforts are considered. Packaging
can be considered as an integral part of the product and is the first point
of contact with the brand for a consumer product (Rundh, 2005).
From a managerial point of view, packaging needs to fulfill several functions
although previous research almost emphases the logistic function, the marketing
function and that the package provides convenience in handling and storing the
product (Prendergast and Pitt, 1996). In the marketing
literature, it is also obvious that packaging is playing an important role as
a marketing tool in many market areas by protection, promotion and user convenience.
For export companies, packaging will vary as a function of transportation mode,
transit conditions and time of transportation (Rundh, 2005).
According to Silayoi and Speece (2004) model, five
main packaging elements potentially affect consumer purchase decisions, which
can be separated into two categories: visual and informational elements. The
visual elements consist of graphic, size and shape of packaging and relate more
to the affective side of decision-making.
Informational elements relate to information provided and technologies used in the package and are more likely to address the cognitive side of decisions.
Using packaging elements by consumer is an important issue for low involvement products. Generally, informational elements require more mental effort to process than to do visual elements, which evoke more of an emotional response (Silayoi and Speece, 2004). However, these elements usually introduce in separate terms but really they have very near relation.
The role of imagery in information processing pictures may exert an influence
on judgments through their mediating impact on the images they provide of the
situations they describe. However, images may be elicited by verbal descriptions
of situations as well. The role of imagery in consumer behavior has been recognized
in research by Escalas (2004). That is, individuals
who read a story may often imagine themselves as a protagonist in the narrative.
As a consequence of being transported into the situation portrayed in advertisement,
they may be more influenced by it (Wanke, 2009).
The food industry is the largest single end-use market accounting for 35% of the global packaging industry. Since, packaging can take many forms the consumption is unequal between different regions in the world and the per capita consumption is considerably higher in industrialized countries than in developing countries (Rundh, 2005).
Iran has a population of over 74 million which makes this country the 17th populated country in the world. Iran has also the 17th largest economy according to its 2009 GDP. Seventy percent of Iranians are under 35 years old. This young population who are also in transition from a traditional lifestyle to a modern lifestyle has increased the demand for packaged foot products recently. After the Irans 1979 revolution, countrys independence which was one of the main ideologies of the revolutionaries became Irans main industrial development policy in those years. The government supported internal productions in almost all areas through promotional stimulus and packages. This included large import tariffs for most of the products which were or could be produced in Iran. This however, has changed in the recent years. The Iranian policy makers now more believe in free market rather than a controlled market. Although, they still support internal production of some products, the emergence of packaged food famous brands in Iranian super markets and chain stores in recent years proves that these products can enter to Iranian market more easily than before.
Investigations shows that, Iran packaged food products are moving into ever
larger supermarkets and hypermarkets and there is a multiplication of products,
offering consumers vast choice. The competitive context is ever more intense,
both in the retail store and household. This means that Iran provides an appropriate
context for examining packaging of processed food products. Understanding consumer
response to packaging in Iran, is critical to food producing companies since,
the packaged food industry in Iran is competitive. In Iran, the rapid growth
of modern retailing, where packaging plays a critical role in merchandising
and communication, is an important driver of the dynamic competitive environment
for fast moving consumer goods. Expansion of modern retailing is common across
Asia, even in very low income countries (Speece and Huong,
2002). Although, according to purchasing power parity index Iran has ranked
73rd in the world and one can think most of decent, imported food products cannot
be affordable for Iranian people, but the story is different. There are large
gaps in wealth amount of different level of society and there are specific levels
of society who can easily afford to buy top brand packaged food products even
when import tariffs and transportation fees are added. Traveling to other countries
for vacation or business trips has also made these certain levels of society
to become familiar with different packed food brands. In addition, different
surveys reveals that Iranian consumers believe that almost any packaged food
product produced in other countries have better quality.
The whole ranges of modern retail stores common in Europe and North America are also becoming common in Iran. Hypermarkets now lead growth. Refah, is one of the main players of retail industry in Iran. It has the second largest retail chain stores with more than 130 branches in Iran.
These trends have pushed the producers towards lot of food product and packaging innovation. In Iran, ready-to-eat and other convenience food products are among the most rapidly growing categories. Packaging has become a critical marketing issue for Iranian food industry in the current competitive market. Industry experts believed that product innovation and packaging are the keys to enhance competitiveness of Iranian packaged food products.
A key to maximizing package impact is understanding consumer response to packaging. Understanding issues that concern consumers in one highly competitive market should provide a useful guide for others, even if details of execution might be different across countries (Silayoi and Speece, 2004).
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Survey instrument: A quantitative survey was conducted in order to empirically
measure and test the relationship between variables. The survey instrument was
identified through a comprehensive literature review of consumer buying behaviors
and packaging. The first section of the questionnaire contained questions assessing
personal and demographic dimensions that include age, education, employment
status, household income and household place of residence. The main section
of questionnaire was developed based on the work of Silayoi
and Speece (2004) and William (1994). Visual and informational
elements of food products packaging including 5 items of size, shape, color,
technology and information were rated on five-point scales from strongly agree
to strongly disagree at each end. The questionnaire covered three stages of
purchase decision including: Pre-purchase, Purchase and Post-Purchase (Fig.
1). Respondents were asked how these items of Packaging would influence
on their different activities of purchase decision.
Prior to empirical testing, it was refined by an expert panel of marketing
academics and researchers and then by pilot testing. This study was conducted
in 2 phases. Phase 1 involved a pilot study, which was conducted to refine the
test instrument (Teijlingen and Hundley, 2001). Thirty-two
respondents were interviewed in the pilot testing phase and all surveys were
included in the exploratory analysis. The results of this phase of our study
proved the designed instrument is proper for this study. In other words, the
content validity of this study was confirmed at this stage.
Sample selection and characteristics: The main study (phase 2) was conducted
From April to June 2009, in this period, 175 consumers of food products consisted
of approximately equally men (47%) and women (53%) participated in the choice-based
conjoint experiment, which took place in the region of Tehran. The statistical
population of this study includes Refah chain storez food customers in Tehran.
model of research
The cluster sampling method was used for two reasons. First of all, the sampling
frame list was unknown. Secondly, the number of society members was statistically
infinite. In our cluster sampling method, we divided Tehran into 5 different
regions of North, South, East, West and center. Among these five regions, there
regions of North, center and South were selected randomly.
Seventy questionnaires were distributed in each region over a two-week period. Data were collected by trained personnel at different days of the week as well as at uniformly distributed time intervals to assure a high degree of representation of the population in the sample and to minimize day and time-related response bias. Out of the 210 distributed questionnaires, 35 were excluded for reasons of inconsistency in responses and incompleteness of answers.
Data analysis: The 175 valid questionnaires were analyzed. Frequencies were used to generate a profile of the key demographic characteristics of the respondents. Statistical analysis results are presented in two parts.
Descriptive statistics: The demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the 175 participants are shown in Table 2.
Descriptive statistics were used to calculate the mean and standard error scores of attributes. The distributions of variables importance examined in this study are presented in Table 3. The data in Table 3 indicate that informational element of food packaging in all stages of consumer decision making are considered the most important product choice criteria, while visual element of packaging attracts the least attention.
The overall evaluation of the above criteria and, in particular, the high values
of both informational and visual elements of packaging suggests that customers
are mostly concerned with essential properties and informational characteristics
of product and pay considerably less attention to visual dimensions of the product
such as packaging shape, size or color.
Findings of this study showed that, informational elements of the package influence purchase decision of food products to great extent. The participants tended to judge food product performance by reading the label if they were considering products more carefully. Properly delivered information on packaging generates strong impact on the consumers purchase decision. This information reduces the uncertainty and creates product credibility.
The behavior of consumers towards food packaged products characterized by different
stages of decision making process is less influenced by image issues and visual
response (Kupiec and Revell, 2001); in such cases consumers
need more information. Written information on the package can assist consumers
in making their decisions carefully as they consider product characteristics
(Silayoi and Speece, 2004).
However, graphics and color are relatively important. Attractive packaging generates consumer attention by breaking through the competitive disorder.
of packaging elements
One-way repeated measures Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used to compare the impacts of packaging elements, visual and informational, on purchase decision in three stages (pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase). The participants were questioned about the impact of packaging elements on the three stages of purchase decision making process. The design of this study was repeated measures.
Table 4 shows the results of one-way repeated measure. ANOVA analysis used to detect weather there were significant differences among impacts of packaging elements on purchase decision in three stages.
The main effect of the time was significant (F (2, 326) = 67.124, p = 0.000, p<0.000). Effect size of time was computed using partial η2. For the packaging elements, the effect size of time was 0.292 which was a large effect (Table 5). Because, one-way repeated measures ANOVA results were significant, these results were further analyzed using pair wise comparisons (Post Hoc) to examined the effects of time on packaging elements in three stages.
Result of Table 6 show that the impact of packaging elements in purchase stage is more than other stages. According to the above table, impact of packaging elements in pre-purchase stage is more than post-purchase stage. Table 7 shows the importance of shape, size, color, technology and information variables in each stage of purchase process via Related one way ANOVA test.
The impact of demographic variables on purchasing process
Gender: The results showed that consumers gender has significant impact
on color (t = 6.34), size (t = 4.72), shape (t = 6.53) and information (t =
8.97) variables, while it has no significant impact on packaging technology
(t = 1.29). For female consumers, at pre-purchase stage color and shape, at
purchase stage size and shape and at post purchase information and size are
important. On the other hand, for male consumers at pre-stage purchase information
and shape, at purchase stage color and information and at post purchase stage
color and shape are more important.
Age: According to results there is no significance difference among all different age groups except under 20 age group and above 40 age group. For consumers who are under 20 years old, at pre-purchase stage color and shape, at purchase stage color, shape and size and at post-purchase stage size and shape are more important.
of packaging elements in each stage of purchase process
is significant if Sig. (F) <0.05
On the other hand, among consumers who are above 40 years old at pre-purchase stage shape and information, at purchase stage information and color and at post-purchase stage packaging size are more important.
Education: According to results, there is no significant difference among consumers with different level of education.
Income: The results show there are significant differences between consumers with income level 1 and level 3. For consumers with level 1 income at pre-purchase stage packaging information and technology, at purchase stage packaging information and size and at post stage packaging size are more important. However, for consumers with level 3 income at pre-purchase stage packaging color and shape, at purchase stage packaging color and size and at post stage packaging color and technology are more important.
Consumer behavior analysis is the use of behavior principles, usually gained experimentally, to interpret human economic consumption. It stands academically at the intersection of economic psychology on one hand and marketing science-the study of the behavior of consumers and marketers, especially as they interact-on the other. The present study attempted to examine the relationship between packaging and food products consumer behaviors in Iran. Based on this, we discuss the relationship between packaging elements and food product consumer behaviors based on different stages of their decision making process in more detail according to our research findings.
Pre-purchase: The results of this study reveal the fact that food product buyers pay attention to packing elements when they feel the need for a specific product. The findings show that informational elements of a food package are the most important elements at this stage.
When consumer feels a need for which he does not have any solution, he looks
for information from personal, commercial, public and experimental resources.
The impact of each resource on purchase decision is different and dependent
on the product and consumer (Kotler and Armstrong, 1994).
The survey results indicate that, in food products, the package and the information
written on it is one of the most important and common information resources.
This is in line with Angela et al. (1997) study
of the positive influence of food package labels on purchase decisions of these
products. His research results show that 58% of food products buyers pay attention
to the information written on package when they are evaluating different alternatives
(Angela et al., 1997).
Purchase: Different research findings reveal the fact that the consumer
decision about modifying, postponing or avoiding purchase decision is highly
dependent on the mental risk of decision perceived by consumer. About food products,
which consumers generally perceive less risk than other products, the package
plays an important role (Vasquez et al., 2003).
This study shows that packaging with reliance on information and visual elements
plays the most important role in consumer purchase decision at this stage in
comparison with the other stages. The food product buyers mostly pay attention
to information written on food package when they are going to make their ultimate
purchase decision. Moreover, the other image elements such as; color, shape
and technology of package has also a significant effect on consumer purchase
decision at stores (Warlop et al., 2005). The
relation between these two elements in this stage is very important issue too;
the disposition to form images on the basis of verbal information may be either
chronic (Childers et al., 1985) or situationally
induced. In a series of studies, it was found that when people with a disposition
to form visual images (i.e., visualizers) receive attribute descriptions of
a product that is unfamiliar to them, they often find it difficult to construct
an image of it and react unfavorably to the product being described (Wanke,
2009). However, providing a picture of the product can substantially increase
their evaluations of it, but the impact of a picture on visualizers evaluations
depends in part on whether the verbal and pictorial information can be integrated
into a single image. In contrast, when individuals have a disposition to process
information semantically without forming visual images, they are unaffected
by these factors (Wanke, 2009).
Post-purchase: After purchasing a product the package has two key roles
in consumers satisfaction or dissatisfaction. First of all if the package
provides desired condition for keeping products this can led to satisfaction
(Steinka et al., 2006). In addition, when consumers
use the products they compare all information written on the package with the
actual product and if the product performance is lower than their expectation
this will result in dissatisfaction. Furthermore, Warlop
et al. (2005) research findings reveals since different packaging
elements can remind consumers the perceived quality this can influence their
Effects of Pictures on Initial Impression Formation Several studies of the
impact of pictures and verbal attribute information on product evaluations were
conducted by Yeung and Wyer (2004). They found that
when products were described by verbal attribute information alone, participants
evaluations of the product depended on whether they were told to use affective
or utilitarian criteria. When they were shown a picture of the product before
receiving the verbal attribute information, however, they formed an initial
impression of the product on the basis of the picture alone. That is, the attribute
information they received later had little effect (Wanke,
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This area of investigation is complex and uncertain, though extremely promising.
The fields of economics, psychology, sociology and marketing are all deeply
involved in trying to move this research forward, with often-conflicting research
streams and terminology. As in any study, there are some limitations that should
be taken into account in the interpretation of these results. This study was
focused on general roles of packaging elements on different stages of food consumers
purchase behavior. However, much more detailed understanding, careful examination
of issues, among much more broadly consumers is essential.
Other research with a more detailed approach considering other variables such as purchase complexity level, time pressure and individual interests in purchase is recommended. These variables can influence purchase behavior in different stages. In addition, this research is limited by the traditional problems with self report survey research. Future research should use multi item scales to assess relationship between packaging elements and food products buyer behavior. Future research should also examine these relationships for specific product categories in a broader set of countries.