Drivers of decision-making: Perceived food healthiness

Mary Brennan, Mary McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Food choice and consumption behaviors are of interest to both the food industry and health professionals. Increasingly the
health consequences associated with many lifestyle decisions have drawn attention to the role of food in supporting and
maintaining good health and as a main culprit in the emergence, and growth, of particular health problems. Indeed, it is now
well established that a number of health-related problems could be partly addressed through diet-related behaviors (WHO,
2011). Over recent times we have witnessed increasing waistlines globally, which in turn is linked to the growing incidence of
noncommunicable diseases ranging from cardiovascular conditions to cancers and type 2 diabetes. Significant changes to the
environments in which we live and work require us to move less while simultaneously our food systems have developed to
provide ready access to food almost anywhere at any time thus facilitating increased consumption and/or overconsumption.
These food systems are designed to be efficient and effective. To be effective they offer products that are designed to meet
individual needs, focusing on core benefits that consumer’s value and are willing to pay for. Today’s consumers seek foods which
satisfymultiple needs in tandem and thus the desire for convenient, tasty, healthy, socially acceptable, easily accessible foods that
offer value for money frame many food decisions.
The relative importance of such needs varies across the population, as does what is understood to satisfy these needs. This is very
much the case for healthy eating which can involve the: (1) absence or presence (or level) of particular food components; (2)
production and processing practices applied in the creation of the food (e.g., minimum processing, low input foods versus highly
processed ‘value add’ foods); and (3) structure of overall diet (balance, variety, and moderation). This presents many market
opportunities, but due to the idiosyncratic character of humans it also presents challenges.
In this article we explore the multitude of influences that shape and frame consumer interpretations of food, diet, and
health, consider how contemporary food choices are driven by health motives, and reflect on how the responses of the
commercial food industry.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationReference Module in Food Science
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2016

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    Brennan, M. & McCarthy, M., 24 Oct 2016, Reference Module in Food Science.

    Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

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