Food for thought: Consumers' responses to superfood presentation in the digital age
The purpose of this study is to understand how consumers respond to visual cues in the digital presentation of superfoods and how this may influence consumption choices and behaviour. By gaining a deeper understanding of responses to visual cues, insights will be generated into superfood and food presentation, allowing the importance of healthy food presentation to be further understood. This understanding is especially important given the concern over health issues such as obesity in the developed world. Ten in-depth semi-structured interviews using photo elicitation (with a total of 40 participant images and four researcher-provided images) were conducted and analysed via theoretical thematic analysis. The study found the superfood movement has been fuelled by the digital space, and accepted and embraced by contemporary consumers with high food involvement. These consumers place importance on the non-materialistic aspects of superfood consumption, emphasising the hedonic experience and symbolic value. Visual cues, such as bright, vibrant colours, white plateware and natural crockery, ingredients, interesting and colourful garnishing and a background story, all influence a food image to be perceived as more attractive. The study suggests that the exposure to countless glamourised digital images may be changing contemporary consumers’ food relationships, perceptions, expectations and how we interact with food. Such findings add to theory by identifying responses to the superfood movement, exploring the context of the digital landscape, and highlighting the relationship between superfoods, digital images and utilitarian, symbolic and hedonic consumption. This study suggests to policy makers the need for more regulation online and to focus on the non-materialistic elements and nutritional elements when encouraging healthy consumption. For brands and influencers in the food industry, more emphasis should be placed on the non-materialistic elements of consumption, while still including utilitarian elements such as food’s nutritional value.