Food choice and consumption behaviour are influenced by many interacting factors. In this paper we present an empirical effort to enhance understanding of the neophobia-neophilia forces affecting food choice. Starting from the analysis of consumer preferences for some of the most familiar highly processed foods, namely fat-reduced, functional (enriched drinks and yogurt) and ready-to-eat frozen food, our study investigates the role of traditional demographic variables vs attitudes to new food technologies in predicting the consumption behaviour of a sample of Italians buying such products. Consumer attitudes toward food technologies were collected by means of the Food Technology Neophobia Scale (FTNS). Moreover, this paper explicitly analyses the value of the information provided by the FTNS. Underlying the research is the hypothesis that the FTNS may contribute to provide a comprehensive picture of the driving forces behind consumers' behavioural responses towards processed foods which are the end-result of mature technologies. The four FTNS components, once measured and used independently, help clarify the influence on food choices of each neophobia-neophilia force (risk perception and novelty seeking, media influence, own health and environmental concerns) into a single, comprehensive framework.
Keywords: Familiarity scale; Food neophobia scale; Italian consumers.
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