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How Nutritional Claims on Products Affect Parents’ Decision Making When Purchasing Breakfast Cereals

Info: 10453 words (42 pages) Dissertation
Published: 13th Dec 2019

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Tagged: Food and NutritionConsumer Decisions

 An investigation into how nutritional claims on products affect parents’ decision making when purchasing breakfast cereals for their school going children.



Front of package (FOP) labelling was a strong factor that influenced the food choices parents made for their children (Song et al., 2014). Many products such as breakfast cereals have been well marketed using nutrition and health claims, which influenced consumer decision-making. Marketing often led parents to purchase products of poorer nutritional quality (Devi et al., 2014) However, additional factors also affected parents’ food choices for their children such as price, time, food label illiteracy and preferences of children. While parents want to make healthy food choices for their children, this is not always feasible. Practical factors such as price and time often affected parents food purchasing decisions (Maubach et al., 2009).

The present study aimed to investigate how nutritional claims on products affected parents’ decision making when purchasing breakfast cereals for their school-going children, aged between four to twelve. This study proposed a quantitative approach to data collection. A convenience sample of fifty parents would be selected outside a large multiple chain supermarket in the West of Ireland. The sample population would be surveyed through the use of questionnaires.

Based on the literature reviewed, it is recommended that a food labelling education programme could be designed by the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCCA) in conjugation with the Association of Teachers of Home Economics (ATHE). This programme could be incorporated into the Home Economics curriculum. It has also been recommended that Safefood Ireland could introduce a food label literacy programme to help parents to make healthier food choices for their children.


Table of Contents


Declaration of Work:



Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Food Labelling

2.2.1 Nutrition and health claims

2.2.2 Regulations of food labelling

2.2.3 Food Label Literacy

2.3 Consumer Decision Making

2.3.1 Factors which influence consumer decision-making

2.3.2 Factors influencing parents when grocery shopping

2.4 Marketing of Breakfast Cereals

2.4.1 Intakes of Breakfast Cereals amongst children in Ireland

2.4.2 Techniques used to Market Breakfast Cereals

2.5 Conclusion

Chapter 3: Planned Methodology

3.1 Introduction:

3.2 Aim:

3.3 Objectives:

3.4 Research Design:

3.5 Instrumentation:

3.6 Validity and Reliability in Research:

3.7 Ethical Considerations:

3.8 Sample Population:

3.9 Procedure for Analysis:

3.10 Limitations:

3.11 Relevance to Home Economics:

3.12 Conclusion:

Chapter 4: Summary and Recommendations

















ATHE: Association of Teachers of Home Economics

DES: Department of Education and Science

EFSA: European Food Safety Authority

EU: European Union

FIC: Food Information to the Consumer

FOP: Front of Package

FSA: Food Standards Agency

FSAI: Food Safety Authority of Ireland

NCCA: National Council for Curriculum Assessment

US: United States




















Chapter 1- Introduction

Parents have become increasingly more aware of the necessity to make healthier food choices for their children (O’Connor, 2013). Recent statistics in Ireland reveal that one in four children are overweight or obese (Safefood, 2016). In this context, there is a high level of concern regarding unhealthy foods marketed at young children, especially high sugar breakfast cereals. Breakfast cereals are one of many foods that have been linked to the obesity epidemic (O’Connor, 2013). Parents now realise the significant impact selecting a healthy breakfast can have on their child’s health. While, parents want to select healthy breakfast options for their children, they still remain heavily influenced by other factors such as marketing, price, time and the‘pester power’ of their children when shopping (Maubach et al., 2009).

Consumers are inundated with choice and marketing as they carry out their grocery shopping, as marketers continue to use strategic techniques such as special offers, visuals, claims and branding of products to influence consumer decision making (Calvert, 2008). Front of package (FOP) labelling can have a major impact on consumers’ decision making, as consumers are often overwhelmed with the complexity of information found on food labels (Shames, 2008).This leads parents to rely on their own knowledge to interpret information, which may be limited (Leathwood et al., 2007). It is evident that parents food label literacy is an important area for concern. However, there is a dearth in the literature as the research fails to unveil whether nutrition or health claims are of benefit to the consumer or just a means of persuading the consumer to purchase a well-marketed food product.

Currently key elements in the Home Economics Leaving Certificate curriculum in post- primary education in Ireland include nutrition and wise consumer decision-making (Department of Education and Science (DES), 2001). As a future Home Economics educator, the researcher feels it is crucial that key knowledge and skills in food label literacy and effective consumer decision making in such areas are embedded throughout the subject of Home Economics. It is vital that parents and children are empowered to make wise decisions when making food choices. Often parents have a strong awareness for the need to make appropriate food choices for their children but lack the necessary knowledge and skills to make effective food choices. Therefore, education in this area is vital to enable parents to make informed decisions.

The present research study aims to investigate how nutritional claims on products affect parents’ decision making when purchasing breakfast cereals for their school going children. A quantitative research method is proposed for this study. Fifty parents would be selected using convenience sampling would be surveyed using questionnaires outside a large multiple chain supermarket in an urban area in the West of Ireland as part of this research. The research results could be used to help inform practice for Home Economists and health promotion professionals.

Chapter two of this research discusses pertinent literature in the area of nutrition and health claims, consumer decision-making and marketing of breakfast cereals. Chapter three explores the proposed research methodology for this study. Chapter four will present the recommendations drawn from the literature review.

Chapter 2: Literature Review
2.1 Introduction

This chapter outlines the role of food labelling, and in particular nutrition and health claims in consumer decision-making. It will explore how nutrition and health claims on breakfast cereals are marketed towards the consumer. The main focus will be placed on how food labelling influences parents when shopping.  Other factors that influence parents when shopping will also be explored further in this chapter.


2.2 Food Labelling
2.2.1 Nutrition and health claims

Consumers in today’s society are becoming increasingly aware of the implications that personal food choices have on their health (Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), 2007). Many consumers now place a greater importance on the nutritional information found on food labels in an effort to make more informed food purchasing decisions (The European Consumer Organisation, 2015). Food labelling plays a key role in enabling the consumer to make an informed decision. DeVille-Almond and Halliwell (2014) believe that if consumers make informed decisions using food labelling this could help to prevent obesity and non-communicable diseases such as type two diabetes. Kjelkevik (1998) agrees that food labelling is primarily used to present information to the consumer in order to help consumers evaluate a product and make an informed decision. The competence of the consumers’ ability to interpret food labelling, is crucial in making informed decisions. Worryingly, Nielsen (2011) states, 59% of consumers globally have difficulty comprehending nutritional information found on food labels.

Accurate and informative food labelling is essential in assisting consumers who wish to make healthier food choices (Buttriss and Benelam, 2010). Often nutrition claims found on food labels play a key role in assisting consumers in their decision-making process. According to the FSAI (2007, p.39)

“ A nutrition claim is any claim which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular beneficial nutritional properties due to the energy and/or the nutrients or other substances that it does or does not provide/contain at a reduced or increased rate”.

Examples of nutritional claims include stating that a product is ‘low fat’, ‘high fibre’ or has ‘no added sugars’ (FSAI, 2007). These claims are becoming more widespread and of greater interest to the consumer (Grunert and Willis, 2007). Food manufacturers are beginning to increase their use of claims on products in an effort to portray a healthier product to the consumer (Petrovici et al., 2012). Comparative nutrition claims are also utilised by companies. This type of nutrition claim states that a nutrient has been increased or reduced in a product (FSAI, 2016). In this incidence the nutrient level must be altered by a certain percentage in comparison to a variety of similar standard brands in order to be eligible for the use of a reduced or increased nutrient claim. For example, a standard mayonnaise brand must reduce its fat content by at least 30% in order to support a reduced fat claim (Verhagene et al., 2010).

Similarly, health claims also act as a method of encouraging healthier food choices. According to the FSAI (2007, p.39)  “A health claim is any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health”. Therefore, the consumption of the food can be of benefit to particular individuals or help avoid specific health problems (Petrovici et al., 2012). This can include nutrient function claims, for example vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal bones.  Health claims are based on scientific evidence and therefore, must comply with regulations (Mariotti et al., 2010). Research suggests that if a product has a health claim which the consumer is familiar with or suffers from then it is more likely to capture their attention and encourage the consumer to investigate the product further (Buttriss, 2015). According to research carried out in 2007 on regularly consumed packaged foods found on the Irish market, results showed that 47% of products contained a nutrition claim and that 18% carried a health claim, hence, demonstrating that the use of these claims in the Irish market is extensive (Lalor et al., 2009).

Nutrition and health claimscan act as a powerful tool to the consumer by revealing specific characteristics of a product, which may be otherwise unknown to the consumer (Leathwood et al., 2007). However, food manufacturers also use nutrition and health claims as a marketing tool to encourage consumers to purchase their food product over other competitors (Petrovici et al., 2012).  For this reason, nutrition and health claims are heavily regulated by legislation, on National, European and International levels to ensure that the consumer is protected from false or misleading information (FSAI, 2007).



2.2.2 Regulations of food labelling

Food legislation acts as a barrier against the use of misleading information by food manufacturers (Gilsenan, 2011). Therefore, it is essential that the information communicated to the consumer is clear, concise and accurate. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the FSAI have a pivotal role to play in relation to the enforcement of food legislation.

In 2007, legislation was introduced in the European Union (EU) “governing the use of nutrition and health claims made on food across the EU” under Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 (Gilsenan, 2011, p.563). However, this legislation has since been updated and brought under the Food Information to the Consumer (FIC) Regulation (EC) No. 1169/2011, which came into full effect in Ireland in December 2016 (FSAI, 2016). Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 related to all nutrition and health claims made in “…commercial communications, whether in the labelling, presentation or advertising of foods to be delivered as such to the final consumer” (FSAI, 2007, p.37). It states that nutrition and health claims must not be false or misleading in any way, give any uncertainty about the safety or nutritional adequacy of other foods or influence excess consumption of the product. In addition, the regulation also states that claims must not:

“ state, suggest or imply that a balanced and varied diet cannot provide appropriate quantities of nutrients in general” or “refer to changes in bodily functions which could give rise to or exploit fear in the consumer, either textually or through pictorial, graphic or symbolic representations” (FSAI, 2007, p. 38).

All claims must undergo approval at EU level, adhering to certain conditions. Presently there is a list of permitted nutrition claims listed by the FSAI in the Annex of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 (See Appendix A) that may be used if certain criteria are met, for example low fat. According to the FSAI (2016) if a product carries a low fat claim that product must contain less than 3g of fat per 100g for solids or 1.5g of fat per 100ml of liquids. Under FIC Regulation 2011, it is now mandatory for all pre-packaged foods to provide nutrition labelling. Prior to this regulation only food products which carried a nutrition or health claim required further nutritional information to support claims (FSAI, 2016). Health claims are “…prohibited unless they have been authorised … and comply with the prescribed general and specific requirements” (FSAI, 2007, p.39). As health claims communicate information about the effect it will have on health, they require a greater level of investigation scientifically before becoming authorised and visible to the consumer (Gilsenan, 2011).Regulation No 1169/2011 under the FIC ensures consumer competence as the claims made must be veritable. It is vital that consumers can understand and rely on claims made on products (FSAI, 2007).

2.2.3 Food Label Literacy

One of the most useful tools when making food choices is the food label (Food and Drug Administration, 2008). It was anticipated that food labels would be useful for parents when food shopping however, due to their complexity this is not always the case. Research has shown that often food labels confuse consumers rather than act as an aid in decision-making (Sharf et al., 2012). An Irish study conducted by the FSAI (2009) found that only 25% of consumers always read food labels, with 19% usually, 29% sometimes and 27% rarely or never reading food labels when shopping. This, suggests that food label use in Ireland is low. Two similar research studies were conducted bybothKumpel Norgaard and Brunso (2009) and Grunert and Willis (2007) state that consumers often over estimate their ability to use food labels. However, their actual use of food labels is minimal.

It is proposed that consumers, in particular parents, need to be properly educated on the information found on food labels in order to benefit from them (Insel, et al., 2006).Home Economics has a major role to play in this area as it is one of the few subjects presently which focuses on food education. According toSoederberg et al. (2015), if consumers have greater nutritional knowledge they are more likely to consult food labels than those who have little knowledge. Students who study Home Economics have greater nutritional knowledge hence, are more likely to consult food labels. According to the Draft Specification for Junior Cycle Home Economics which has been recently published by the NCCA (2017), this strand aims to develop students understanding of key areas in Home Economics such as diet, nutrition and health. It is expected this strand will expand students health literacy skills, which includes being able to interpret food labels. According to Levy et al. (1997), less educated consumers tend to rely on FOP labelling rather than the detailed nutritional information found on the food label on the back or side of the product. Home Economics plays a key role in enhancing nutritional knowledge of students which should encourage students to explore beyond FOP labelling.


According to Kumpel-Norgaard and Brunso (2009), parents rarely use nutritional information when it is complicated and too technical. Parents prefer food labels which are concise and easy to understand. Parents tend to find FOP labelling easier to comprehend especially if it includes visual or descriptive information rather than numerical data which is often difficult to interpret for the average consumer (Food Standards Agency, 2007). Effective food labelling using colours, percentages and logos, which consumers can easily interpret can serve as a promising obesity prevention measure (World Health Organisation, 2012). If consumers struggle to interpret nutritional data, as the research suggests, then consumers must rely on nutrition and health claims as a deciding factor when purchasing products. According to Leathwood et al. (2007), if a product contains nutrition or health claims consumers are less likely to investigate the food label.

Consumers are more familiar with nutrition claims as they are more commonly found on products than health claims (Levy et al., 1997). Consumers appear to have a strong understanding of nutrition claims that refer to nutrients they are familiar with such as fat or salt, in comparison to less familiar micro-nutrients such as zinc (Levy et al., 1997). According to the FSAI (2007), health claims seem to cause the highest level of confusion among consumers. As consumers find well known health claims such as the link between healthy bones and calcium in the diet easier to understand than more complex claims such as inulin which improves bowel function. However, unfamiliar health claims are gaining consumer acceptance through extensive advertising. For example, the link between plant sterols and a healthy heart has been made much more apparent to the consumer through advertising (Grunert and Willis, 2007). Despite the fact that food labels are being read more regularly than in the past there is still a lack in the understanding of food labels (FSA, 2007). Apart from food label illiteracy, many other factors influence parents’ decision making when selecting breakfast cereals for their children.

2.3 Consumer Decision Making
2.3.1 Factors which influence consumer decision-making

Currently, parents are influenced more than ever by numerous factors when trying to make healthy food choices for their children (Kumar, 2013). Consumer decision-making is a process in which a consumer identifies an unsatisfied need or want, which they wish to fulfill (Prasad, 2009). According to Linehan (2008) and Tyagi and Kumar (2004) this process involves five key stages: problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision and post purchase behaviour.


The consumer decision-making process differs between low and high involvement purchase decisions (Doole et al., 2005). Both Doole et al. (2005) and Lamb et al. (2009) state that the level of involvement usually is a factor which affects the amount of time required when forming purchasing decisions. A consumer’s involvement in a product usually increases when a product is considered expensive or a risky purchase for example, a car or land which, require greater thought and investigation (Linehan, 2008). Low involvement products refer to more frequently bought products that require little thought or risk such as grocery items which often become habitual. Many consumers tend to spend significantly less time and thought on low involvement products such as breakfast cereals or chocolate (Doole et al., 2005). Consumers have many brands to choose from when selecting a desired breakfast cereal option. However, as they become familiar with the product they become less involved in the purchasing process (Lamb et al., 2009). For this reason food companies make a conscious effort to market low involvement products effectively through the use of special offers, enticing visuals on packaging, claims, and brand loyalty in an effort to create a stand out product (Linehan, 2008). Similarly, Solomon et al. (2013) states that marketers use in-store stimuli such as in-store displays to encourage parents as consumers to purchase well-marketed products.


2.3.2 Factors influencing parents when grocery shopping

Parents face particular difficulty when grocery shopping as they are influenced by a multitude of factors. Practical factors often dominate parents food purchasing decisions when shopping for the household (Maubach, et al., 2009). Factors such as price of the product heavily influences parents due to their disposable income. A family’s socio economic background can affect the price a parent is willing to pay for a product. Dietary requirements of a family can also affect parents’ decisions when grocery shopping, leading parents to check food labels or dietary symbols on packaging when shopping. Consumers are influenced by nutritional signposting such as FOP labelling rather than the food label found on the back or side of products, due to the time constraints they face daily (Kaltcheva et al., 2013). However, shortage of time appears to be the primary factor for parents making poor nutritional decisions when shopping (Noble et al., 2007).

Both Solomon et al. (2013) and Linehan (2008) state that children have a huge influence over parents purchasing habits, particularly in relation to products such as breakfast cereals. Marketers are very much aware of the influence a child can have on purchasing decisions in a household. Therefore, marketers regularly target children through their products (Linehan, 2008). Children become familiar with products through advertising and marketing stimuli from an early age, which can affect parents’ decisions (Solomon et al., 2013). Research suggests, that parents struggle to deny their children products they request due to ‘pester power’ (Ogba and Johnson, 2010). According to a study carried out in the United States (US), almost two-thirds of breakfast cereals requested by children were for presweetened breakfast cereals (Story and French, 2004).  To avoid unnecessary pressure from children, parents try to shop without their children yet, this is not always feasible. Many young children also have food neophobia, which refers to a fear of trying new foods (Maubach et al., 2009). This poses problems for many parents when shopping leading to familiar habitual purchasing behaviour. Due to various factors, which influence parents, the nutritional value of the product sometimes fails to act as a primary motivator for parents to purchase a particular product (Abrams, et al., 2015). Shopping tends to become habitual where consumers return to brands they are familiar with and trust (Maubach et al., 2009). Often families find FOP labelling can be beneficial when making food choices due to the time pressures they face. Research shows that many parents rely on nutrition claims to facilitate their selection of food products for their children (Maubach et al., 2009).

2.4 Marketing of Breakfast Cereals
2.4.1 Intakes of Breakfast Cereals amongst children in Ireland

Presently, the breakfast cereal market in Ireland remains strong. In February 2013, research was conducted on the breakfast cereal market in Ireland. The results of the report showed that only 6% of consumers in Ireland had not eaten breakfast cereals in the three months previous to the study being conducted (O’Connor, 2013). Kellogg’s company of Ireland Ltd. was the overall market leader in 2016, obtaining 35% of market share. However, Flahavan and Sons Ltd. and Weetabix Ltd. still remain competitive due to the strength of their natural and organic cereals (Euromonitor International, 2016).

Eating a breakfast each day is deemed to contribute to better cognitive functioning of children, along with decreasing the risk of childhood obesity (Schwartz et al., 2008) However, this is dependent on selecting the most nutritious breakfast option (Rampersaud et al., 2005). According to research carried out by Bord Bia in Ireland in 2016, 85% of children had a breakfast at home everyday. The results revealed that breakfast cereal was the most popular choice for a child’s breakfast in Ireland, with 39% consuming cold cereal options and 19% consuming hot cereal options such as porridge (Bord Bia, 2016). Weetabix and porridge are the most popular breakfast cereals consumed by children presently in Ireland. Parents are now more aware of the importance of reducing their children’s sugar intake (Bord Bia, 2016). Leading cereal companies such as Kellogg’s (2016) state that the sugar content in their products has been reduced since 2010 across Ireland and Europe. This is mainly due to breakfast cereals being implicated in the obesity epidemic (O’Connor, 2013). Leading cereal companies such as Nestlé and Kellogg’s have taken measures to modify their products to make them appear healthier, and thus maintain market share.

2.4.2 Techniques used to Market Breakfast Cereals

Marketing has a strong influence in society today. “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably” (The Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2015, p. 2). Effective marketing is essential in every business in order to encourage consumers to purchase their products and be satisfied with their decision (Burrow, 2012). Marketing poses a strong influence over parents’ decision making when shopping.  Breakfast cereal manufacturers often use marketing as a method to distinguish their product from other competitors through the use of branding, packaging and advertising (Michman and Mazze, 1998).

According to research conducted in the US, breakfast cereals of poorer nutritional quality are typically marketed towards children. Often marketers use promotional giveaways, advertisements and movie characters on packaging to help market breakfast cereals of poorer nutritional quality (Schwartz et al., 2008). Child orientated cereals are frequently high in saturated fat, sugar and sodium, all of which are nutrients which parents wish to reduce in their child’s diet (Devi et al, 2014). Packaging is designed for a variety of functions, one of which includes attracting consumer’s attention to stimulate purchasing of a particular product (Michman and Mazze, 1998). Calvert (2008), suggests that marketing is often used to target children as a means of encouraging parents to purchase particular products. This puts pressure on parents’ through the use of their child’s ‘pester power’ which, parents’ struggle to deny (Ogba and Johnson, 2010). Cereal packages use visual features such as branded characters, games, fun activities and prizes along with textual features being used in an effort to increase a child’s desire for a particular cereal (Song et al., 2014). Branded characters are frequently used to help appeal to children, as the character becomes associated with the brand, thus, encouraging brand loyalty. For example, “Tony the Tiger” is heavily linked to Kellogg’s frosted flakes breakfast cereal. Furthermore, popular children’s characters such as ‘SpongeBob’ can also be found on breakfast cereals. Such characters can be licensed out to companies for a fee in an attempt to market their product (Calvert, 2008). Food marketers design their packaging in a way, which appeals to children rather than parents, through the use of strong bright colours on packaging to catch children’s attention and to create an illusion that the product is fun and exciting (Marshall, et al., 2007). It is difficult to establish whether or not packaging has a significant influence over consumer behaviour. It can be hypothesised that perhaps well designed packaging combined with advertising can influence buying behaviour (Ogba and Johnston, 2010).

Lemons (2008) recognises that nutrition and health claims have a significant impact on the purchasing and consumption behaviour of consumers. When consumers are presented with marketing messages in relation to nutrition or health claims on products, they often perceive the meaning of these claims expecting the product is more nutritious than other breakfast cereals (Harris et al., 2011).Various nutrition claims are typically found on breakfast cereals such as “high in calcium” or “high in fibre”. According to research carried out by the FSAI (2009), two thirds of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase a product that had a nutrition claim stating the product was low in salt or sugar, high in fibre or ‘one of five a day’. Certain nutrition claims can be more effective at persuading parents to select healthier food options for their children. For example, claims in relation to vitamins and/or minerals can be influential as some parents feel their children lack sufficient fruit and vegetables in their diet (Kaltcheva et al., 2013). This research demonstrates the impact nutritional claims can have on parents’ decision making, when selecting a healthy breakfast cereal for their school going children.

2.5 Conclusion

This chapter presented a review of the literature in relation to how nutrition and health claims on breakfast cereals influence parents. It discussed food labelling, how consumers form decisions and the influence marketing has over consumer decisions. The following chapter will present the proposed research design and methodology for this study.



Chapter 3: Planned Methodology

3.1 Introduction:

This chapter will discuss the proposed research design of this planned study. Instrumentation, sampling and data analysis will be considered. Procedures to ensure validity and reliability will be outlined. Ethical considerations and limitations of the study will be examined.


3.2 Aim:

This study aims to investigate how nutritional claims on products affect parents’ decision making when purchasing breakfast cereals for their school going children.  

3.3 Objectives:

  • To examine consumers’ ability to interpret food labels and nutrition claims found on food labels.
  • To identify factors that influence parents’ decisions when shopping.
  • To explore the level of consumption and marketing of children’s breakfast cereals. presently in Ireland.
  • To investigate how marketing techniques influence parents’ food choices when purchasing breakfast cereals.

3.4 Research Design:

Research methods are regularly divided into two main categories: qualitative and quantitative approach. According to Aliaga and Gunderson (2000) in: Muijis (2011, p.1), quantitative research refers to “explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analysed using mathematically based methods”. Methods such as questionnaires are selected to make it easier to formulate numerical data (Punch, 2016). On the other hand, qualitative research explores individuals or groups to help understand what motivates people to behave in a particular way, often using interviews or focus groups (Creswell, 2014).

Qualitative research tends to develop in-depth rich data, which numbers may not be able to depict. However, if qualitative research is not carried out carefully, results can be unreliable and invalid often due to researcher bias (Taylor, 2005). In contrast, quantitative research can be a reliable method of collecting data that produces clear and succinct results. In this planned study, a quantitative approach would allow the researcher to gather information efficiently and to present clear numerical data on parents’ buying behaviour and the factors influencing them. Therefore, a quantitative approach is proposed.

3.5 Instrumentation:

According to Goodwin and Goodwin (1996), questionnaires provide structured questions, which are mainly closed allowing the results to be easily quantified. Questionnaires focus on facts, which will quickly provide a large quantity of important information to the researcher (Murray Thomas, 2003). Questionnaires can be effective as they are a low cost, convenient source of information, which can be analysed easily and avoid the risk of interviewer bias (Gillham, 2000).  Questionnaires are most suited to this study due to the time and money constraints of this study.

The questions would be generated according to the main themes that emerged from the literature: nutrition and health claims, food marketing, and consumer decision-making. A range of types of questions would be used, including rating scales such as Likert scales, which provide a variety of responses. Rating scales develop a level of sensitivity that can be coded using numbers to ascertain attitudes and evaluate the influence of various factors that influence parents’ food choices for their children (Cohen et al., 2011). Dichotomous questions would be used to provide simple yes or no answers. Ratio data questions would be used to establish knowledge and multiple-choice questions would also be used to establish the buying behaviour of parents (McGrath and Coles, 2013).

3.6 Validity and Reliability in Research:

Krishnaswamy et al. (2006) states that validity relates to the degree to which the research measures what it is expected to measure, looking at the truth element of the research and the methods used (O’Leary, 2005).  In a questionnaire, the clarity of questions are vital in the planned study to avoid questions being misinterpreted by the sample (Cohen et al., 2011). To ensure a valid study piloting would be carried out in advance. Piloting is a small-scale trial, which would be carried out on small sample of five people to test the instrument before conducting the actual research (Cohen et al., 2011). This would determine the suitability of the instrument being used and help alleviate any problems which may arise before carrying out the study, such as ambiguity within questions (Sapsford and Jupps, 2006). Validity is also related to the degree to which the results can be generalised to the wider population. However, due to the small scale of this proposed study this would not be possible.

Reliability refers to the consistency of the study if it were repeated again (O’Leary, 2005). A reliable instrument will work well under different conditions and different times i.e. a similar result would be achieved if the study was carried out with a different sample of people in a different location (Krishnaswamy, et al., 2006 and O’Leary, 2005). Piloting would allow the researcher to devise a set of codes for participants and questions, which can be recorded in a coding book for use when analysing the research (Balnaves and Caputi, 2001).The researcher would keep a hardcopy of the codebook. This would ensure reliable use of codes during analysis.

3.7 Ethical Considerations:

It is essential that researchers protect their participants by implementing various ethical measures (Creswell, 2014). Written consent would be sought from the supermarket manager before carrying out the study. The researcher would distribute consent forms to each participant. The consent forms would outline the purpose of the study, what participation entails, what the results would be used for and the right of participants to withdraw from the study at any stage (Cohen, et al., 2011). Confidentiality of participants would be ensured at all stages, as information would only be accessible to the researcher. Only the researcher would be able to access codes being used, to protect the participant’s identities (Sanders, 2010). Research data would be stored on a password-protected laptop. Hard copies of the completed questionnaires and data would be stored in a secure cabinet.

3.8 Sample Population:

According to Cohen et al. (2011), it is essential to select an appropriate sample to represent the population in question. In this study, the population consists of parents of school going children between four and twelve years of age. The sample would be selected from a large multiple chain store supermarket in an urban area in the West of Ireland. The researcher proposes to distribute fifty questionnaires to parents. In order to sample the target population a probability or non- probability sampling approach can be taken. Probability sampling gives an equal opportunity to everyone in the target population of being chosen. Whereas, non-probability sampling fails to give all of the population an equal chance of being selected. Non-probability samples are selected based on subjective judgment of the researcher (Daniel, 2012). A non-probability approach using convenience sampling would be taken for this study due to the time constraint. Convenience sampling involves selecting people who are available or easy to find for example in shopping centres. However, bias can easily occur as individual’s behaviour are often considered when the researcher is selecting participants for the study (Weathington et al., 2010). For example, bias could occur by only selecting parents that enter the supermarket with their children which could skew the results.

3.9 Procedure for Analysis:

Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) program version 21 would be used to analyse the numerical data of the research. All participants, questions and responses would be given a code and documented in the codebook. Statistics are usually divided into two key areas: descriptive and inferential statistics. “Descriptive statistics is used to describe quantitatively how a particular characteristic is distributed among a group of people” (Taylor, 2005, p. 139). Whereas, inferential statistics are utilised in large studies, whereby characteristics displayed by the sample can be considered applicable to the wider population. Due to the small-scale nature of the proposed research, descriptive statistics would be used. Descriptive statistics would help the researcher to numerically describe, organise and summarise the data, in relation to the impact nutritional claims have on parents’ purchasing decisions (Weathington et al., 2010).

3.10 Limitations:

Due to time and money constraints this study can only be carried out in one region in Ireland in a multiple chain store, which would, limit the results of the proposed study. Non-probability convenience sampling also limits the study as it is not as reliable as other sampling methods. However, given resource constraints of this study it is the most suited method. As a result of these limitations, it would not be possible to generalise the findings of the proposed study to the whole population.

3.11 Relevance to Home Economics:

This study is strongly linked to Home Economics education as food label literacy and wise consumer decision making are key elements explored in the current syllabi (DES, 2001 and NCCA, 2017). Food labels are an important tool for consumers to use in making wise, informed decisions. Therefore, it is vital that students and parents are properly educated in this area. As a future Home Economics educator, this study is an important to research, as it explores how food label literacy and knowledge can ensure consumers make wise well-informed decisions when purchasing breakfast cereals to ensure a healthy nutritious breakfast is consumed each day.


3.12 Conclusion:

This chapter presented the proposed research design for this planned study. It explored the intended instrumentation, sampling technique and how the data would be analysed. It also examined how to ensure a reliable, valid and ethical study. The final chapter will conclude with a summary and recommendations based on the literature reviewed.




Chapter 4: Summary and Recommendations

4.1 Summary:

It is evident from the literature that many parents frequently struggle to understand food labels due to their complexity (Sharf et al., 2012). This inability to interpret food labels leaves parents at a major disadvantage as they regularly become reliant on FOP claims to assist them whilst making food purchasing decisions for their children (Leathwood et al., 2007). Research suggests that if a product has a nutrition and/or health claim, this increases a parents’ willingness to buy that particular product (Levy et al., 1997). Often, parents perceive a product with a claim as a more nutritious option, although this may not be true.

Parents are not solely influenced by nutrition and health claims when purchasing breakfast cereals for their children. Parents consider healthy food choices an important factor in their child’s life however, this aspect often becomes overshadowed by practical factors such as lack of time, their children’s likes and dislikes, disposable income and marketing when selecting an appropriate breakfast cereal (Maubach et al., 2009). This can lead parents to sometimes select the most convenient variety of breakfast cereal, rather than the most nutritious option (Noble et al., 2007).

It is clear from the literature that marketing has a significant role in influencing parents’ decisions when selecting a healthy breakfast cereal for their children (Michman and Mazze, 1998).As the breakfast cereal market remains strong in Ireland with high levels of consumption, manufacturers continue to use a variety of marketing techniques to entice the consumer to purchase their product. Manufacturers create brand loyalty, use bright packaging, advertising and claims, which together influence parents’ decisions when purchasing a breakfast option for their children (Song et al., 2014). Often breakfast cereals of poorer nutritional quality are marketed towards parents and children (Schwartz et al., 2008). The literature suggests that nutrition and health claims on breakfast cereals influence consumers’ decisions along with a multitude of other factors (Maubach et al., 2009).

4.2: Recommendations:

In light of the recent findings from the literature the researcher recommends that various actions could potentially be taken to address some of the emerging issues in relation to claims made on breakfast cereals and their influence over parents’ purchasing decisions.

As previously discussed parents struggle to interpret food labels when carrying out grocery shopping. Although, food label literacy is addressed on both the Leaving and Junior Certificate Home Economics Syllabus, it is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on the importance of understanding food labels. However, the researcher anticipates that due to the Draft Specification for Junior Cycle Home Economics which has been recently published by the NCCA (2017) that food label literacy skills of students should improve. Further reform may be necessary at Senior Cycle level to ensure further development of food label literacy skills which could be addressed by the ATHE working in conjugation with the NCCA to design an effective food labelling education programme at Senior Cycle level. Learners could have an opportunity to actively engage in understanding and interpreting food labels to make healthier food choices in the future.

This study is limited as it is carried out on only a small scale. The FSAI could carry out a large scale longitudinal study to establish if a food label literacy programme would improve parents’ purchasing habits. This study would provide an opportunity to establish if there is a relationship between parents purchasing behavior and their food label literacy skills by exploring if any changes occurred over a period of time (Menard, 2008).

An organisation such as Safefood, who already play a role in educating the public, could be involved in promoting food label literacy. Safefood could launch a food label literacy programme aimed at parents. This programme would help parents learn how to interpret the food label in order to make healthier food purchasing decisions.

By implementing one or more of the recommendations the researcher feels this could enable parents to make healthier choices in the future for their children.












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Appendix A: List of Approved Nutrition Claims (FSAI, 2016)HDD:Users:user:Desktop:Screen Shot 2017-01-03 at 14.20.26.png

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