Meaning pursuit and food choices: Does meaning affect the healthiness, price, and variety of people’s groceries?

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Meaning is one pillar of happiness and well-being in people’s life. However, scant research has investigated the effect of meaning pursuit on consumer behavior. This study aims to find evidence for this relationship with food choices, consisting of the healthiness, price, and variety of the choices. Understanding consumers’ food choices is important as it affects overall health and choices are made on a daily basis. Additionally, this study tests whether subscribing to a so-called ‘lay theory’ (i.e. healthy=expensive) and possessing variety seeking traits appear as moderating variables in the relationship between meaning pursuit and food choices. A sample of 200 persons was drawn from the population of Dutch adults. The sample was divided into two groups: meaning pursuit group and baseline group. Participants then selected ten products with a maximum budget of €50. Independent t-tests and linear regression were used to find whether differences in food choices occurred between the two groups. Whereas previous research suggests that people in the pursuit of meaning cheap out on their product choices, this study finds no evidence for these findings in the context of food choices. Furthermore, this study yields no evidence for any moderating effect of the lay theory and variety seeking. Nevertheless, the results suggest that subscribing to the lay theory that healthy food is more expensive has a direct effect on the healthiness of food choices. Additionally, a higher education was associated with healthier food choices, and hunger was associated with less healthy food choices. This research contributes to a better understanding of meaning pursuit and consumer behavior. It opens new directions of research in the context of food, while it challenges previous literature on meaning pursuit.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen