Consumer preferences in a comparative European market research study

Diploma Thesis, 2002

148 Pages, Grade: 1,0 (A)



List of figures

List of tables



CHAPTER I THEORETICAL BACKGROUND: Determinants of consumer behaviour
1.1 An interdisciplinary approach to understanding consumer behaviour
1.2 Strategic options for market segmentation
1.3 Lifestyle approaches
1.4 International market research
1.5 The importance of the ecological factor and food habits

2.1 Bolloré: the firm
2.2 The international market research project
2.3 Methodical procedure
2.4 Sampling procedure and data collection
2.5 Background data on those countries reanalysed for the Bolloré research study
2.6 The market for plastic packaging

3.1 Consumer research theory
3.2 Research approach and research strategy
3.3 Data Analysis
3.4 Methodology
3.5 Evaluation procedure

4.1 Building typologies
4.2 Typologies in relation to consumer behaviour
4.2.1 Distribution of consumer types in the three countries
4.2.2 Testing consumer groups in the context of further socio-demographic variables
4.2.3 Frequency behaviour of consumer types
4.2.4 Consumer types and choice of purchase location
4.2.5 Storage location and consumer types
4.3 Marketing aspects for Bolloré
4.3.1 Consumer types in relation to demands made on packaging
4.3.2 Specific criteria for packaging
4.4. Conclusion

5.1 Implications for marketing
5.2 Recommendations for further market research studies




List of figures

Fig. 1: Diploma thesis procedure plan

Fig. 2: Consumer research in relation to different scientific fields

Fig. 3: General view of the strategic and international market selection

Fig. 4: Relationship between culture and economy

Fig. 5: Overview of the process of international market research

Fig. 6: Opinion of ideal task repartition in the family

Fig. 7: The plastic production between 1950-2000

Fig. 8: The world plastic production 2000

Fig. 9: The usage of plastic

Fig. 10: Types of data and levels of numerical measurement

Fig. 11: Strategic analysis of data

Fig. 12: France’s repartition in the different cluster types

Fig. 13: Germany’s repartition in the different cluster types

Fig. 14: The Netherlands’s repartition in the different cluster types

Fig. 15: Order of testing hypotheses

Fig. 16: Homo oeconomicus repartition of household types

Fig. 17: Mr. Easy&comfortable’s repartition of household types

Fig. 18: Gourmand’s repartition of household types

Fig. 19: Free choice buyer’s repartition of household types

Fig. 20: Homo oeconomicus repartition of purchase locations

Fig. 21: Mr. Easy&comfortable’s repartition of purchase locations

Fig. 22: Gourmand’s repartition of purchase locations

Fig. 23: Free choice buyer’s repartition of purchase locations

Fig. 24: Storage preferences of consumer types

Fig. 25: Consumer groups in relation to the criteria ‘cost efficient’

Fig. 26: Consumer types in relation to the criteria ‘protection’

Fig. 27: Consumer groups in relation to the criteria ‘touting’

Fig. 28: Consumer types in relation to the criteria ‘to bear information’

Fig. 29: Consumer types in relation to the criteria ‘identifying information’

Fig. 30: Consumer groups in relation to the criteria ‘environmental friendly’

Fig. 31: Consumer groups in relation to the criteria ‘easy to open’

Fig. 32: Marketing as ‘marketing oriented decisions making’

Fig. 33: International marketing: the five major decisions

Fig. 34: The international marketing environment and marketing mix

Fig. 35: Marketing possibilities

Fig. 36: Strategic options for marketing

List of tables

Table 1: Overview of data obtained through qualitative analysis

Table 2: Fruit and vegetable consumption in France, Germany, Netherlands

Table 3: Household appliances in France, Germany, Netherlands

Table 4: Demographic data

Table 5: Population data

Table 6: Plastic consumption of the European market in 1997

Table 7: The 12 extracted factors from the factor analysis

Table 8: Main components of clusters

Table 9: Results of the discriminant analysis applied to the 4 clusters

Table 10: Equality test for the average value of the groups

Table 11: Cluster repartition according to the number of cases

Table 12: Consumer type’s repartition according to the number of cases in the different nations:

Table 13: Statistical overview of Kruskal&Wallis ‘H-test’:

Table 14: Consumer type’s repartition according to the type of household

Table 15: Repartition of consumer types according to the age group

Table 16: Level of significance according to the frequency of consumption

Table 17: Repartition of consumer groups according to the frequency of consumption

Table 18: Kruskal-Wallis test according to the frequency of purchase

Table 19: Chi-square and asymptotic significance according to the frequency of purchase

Table 20: Repartition of consumer groups according to the frequency of purchase

Table 21: Consumer types in relation to the purchase location

Table 22: Repartition of preservation location: freezer, fruit

Table 23: Repartition of preservation location: freezer, vegetable

Table 24: Repartition of preservation location: fridge, fruit

Table 25: Repartition of preservation location: fridge , vegetable

Table 26: Repartition of preservation location: pantry/dish, fruit

Table 27: Repartition of preservation location: pantry/dish, vegetable

Table 28: Repartition of consumer groups according to demand on packaging


Experiencing new and different cultures has been part of my life. The time abroad – more than a third of my life - has led to many interesting personal and professional experiences. This has helped me deal with new and unknown situations and respect tolerance as a most important value. Out of this interest I seek to understand and learn more about different cultures.

Eventually, one realises that differences in cultures might exist but are they really as significant as generally assumed? This question is of great importance for modern economy of these days. In view of the modern world as a global market, the question seems to be – can cultural aspects be ignored? To what extent can and do they influence our thoughts and habits? Bolloré’s market study in cooperation with 6 European universities provided an opportunity to analyse to what extent consumer behaviour is dependant on cultural aspects. Our comparison of European consumer preferences might help to give some attempt to whether we can assume that geographical boundaries are the only factors dividing nations within the European Union.

My research is guided by the very basic question: ‘Even though European countries are linked geographically and politically, and seem to be moving towards a more and more homogeneous union, to what extent can they be considered as one entity?’

In order to answer this question from an economic perspective I decided to reanalyse and compare interview data from the Bolloré study under the title: consumer preferences in a comparative European market research study.

As social psychology research has shown, attitudes expressed in interviews and behaviour do not always correspond with each other. As an active interviewer in the study I sometimes had the impression that consumers attempted to present themselves in a way that did not correspond to their actual buying behaviour.

But it is not as simple as it seems. Perhaps a thought of Somerset Maugham can be applied to the problem at hand:

‘There are times when I look over the various parts of my character

with perplexity. I recognize that I am made up of several persons

and that the person

that at the moment has the upper hand

will inevitably give place to another. But which is the real one?

All of them are none.’

- W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)

I have tried to keep this in mind in writing my thesis


During recent decades the world has gone through dramatic changes in history demanding continuous adaptation to a changing environment. The results are an economy driven and politically oriented world, always seeking improvement. Europeans travel to far continents, immigrants from other nations settle in Europe to work and raise a family, consumers buy products manufactured in other countries than their own, restaurants with food from other regions of the earth are commonplace etc. The markets and industries are exposed to increasing demands from consumers with more complicated needs to satisfy than ever despite the fact that fierce competition is greater than ever.

A modern trend seems to be that if firms want to stay competitive they need to globalise - sooner or later. Globalisation in terms of ‘providing the opportunity to capitalize upon consumer similarities worldwide’ (Keegan et. al., 1987). However becoming a global player is not a guarantee for success. Nevertheless many of those who are successful are operating on a worldwide basis, where the majority of turnover is from foreign locations. Strategically it offers more advantages and opportunities for any enterprise.

For many firms, developing a new product, the European market is the first step in internalisation. The French company Bolloré took first steps to find out if its new product, an innovative plastic packaging could be marketed across Europe. A special focus is on packaging unprocessed fruit and vegetables in their natural state.

In cooperation with European universities a market research study was conducted in order to analyse consumer buying habits concerning fruit and vegetables as well as attitudes towards packaging in 5 countries of the European Union (France, Germany, Finland, Spain and the Netherlands).

The primary focus was the likelihood of acceptance or rejection of the product after its launching. A second question was, which markets to target. In what way do consumers among different countries differ so that only some will be worth accessing? The aim of this cooperative market research study was to better understand customers, to analyse the current market situation and competitive environment and if possible to deduce a potential marketing strategy.

Consumer behaviour is dependent on many more factors than once assumed. Empirical research has discovered the multiple factors that influence consumer behaviour and buying habits (Kroeber-Riel/Weinberg, 1999:8). Therefore, chapter onewill introduce these factors and their impact for marketing decisions. In addition, the importance of the ecological aspect in the context of packaging will be analysed.

In chapter two, Bolloré the enterprise will be briefly described and their research goals. In addition the methodology and the scope of the international comparative study are explained and described.

A review of some basic data on the countries included in the Bolloré consumer research study will be given as well to provide some better understanding of the different context for the following comparison.

Chapter threedescribes my theoretical framework, the methodology and consumer research theory applied.

In chapter four, theory based hypotheses are examined in more detail using a life style approach as a tool for analysis. The last chapter (five), links these results to the marketing aspect and presents some recommendations for Bolloré’s marketing strategy as well as some general conclusions for further comparative market research studies.

Consumer behaviour has been studied in numerous empirical research studies over the past decades from many different point of views. The cultural aspect in marketing has become more important as some of the following titles which were published in the past few years demonstrate: Globalisation of Consumer marketing: Structures and Strategies (Hassan/Kaynak, 1994), Marketing in a multicultural world: ethnicity, nationalism and cultural identity (Costa/ Bamossy, 1995). Marketing across cultures (Usunier, 1996) or European perspectives on consumer behaviour (Lambkin/ Foxall/ Van Raaij/ Heilbrunn, 1998).

Our comparison included only European countries, and we may ask if consumer behaviour is in fact country and culture specific or rather more dependant on other factors such as the social and psychological environment and therefore independent of nationality. Could this mean that a certain type of customer exists across some European countries independent of respective cultural factors? Depending on these variables are some countries just better markets to target than others?

In order to answer this research question, I re-analysed the national data collected for France, Germany and the Netherlands in an European comparative analysis. The study aims to establish a consumer typology with reference to preferences for buying and storing fruit and vegetables, attitudes towards packaging and social background variables. The outcome should not only be of importance for the case study but help to improve our understanding for developing a European strategy.

My diploma thesis will proceed according to the following work plan.

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Fig. 1: Diploma thesis work plan


This chapter will describe several theoretical approaches leading to the main explanatory theory applied in data analysis - lifestyle typologies. It will provide a deeper understanding of the theoretical background needed for this study.

1.1 An interdisciplinary approach to understanding consumer behaviour

Consumer behaviour has been a research focus for many years. Sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists and other social scientists have engaged in studies attempting to deliver an appropriate explanation (Kroeber-Riel/Weinberg, 1999:14). However no one single field of the social sciences was able to offer satisfactory results, without being criticized by other approaches. It became obvious that consumer behaviour is a far more complex object of study than it was first thought.

Consumer research is an applied behavioural science attempting to explain the behaviour of consumers by analysing patterns of behaviour. This implies that all scientific theories must be taken into consideration which are somehow related to human behaviour. Valid results can only be obtained by theoretical analysis verified by empirical data collection, either by own research or in reanalysing previous studies. The following scientific disciplines have made their specific contributions:

- Sociology,
- Psychology,
- Social psychology,
- Ethology;
- Physiology:

The more complex a study is (in this case consumer behaviour), the more disciplines will be related to its explanation. It becomes impossible to strictly separate the different sciences and to associate a theoretical construct to a single one. However the specific contribution of each scientific discipline depends on the research focus. Therefore, consumer research is characterised by its interdisciplinaryapproach (refer to Sherry 1990 in Kroeber-Riel/Weinberg, 1999:14).

For a better understanding the following graphic will illustrate the relationship of social sciences and consumer behaviour.

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Fig. 2: Consumer research in relation to different scientific fields (own table)

These separate approaches will not be described in detail, as the focus of this thesis is on the lifestyle concept, which is based on a mixture of social science approaches. Krober-Riel (1980) underscores the importance of an interdisciplinary approach. According to the author:

“Interdisziplinär arbeiten heißt problemorientiert arbeiten:

Es kommt darauf an, Probleme mit geeignetem Forschungsansätzen und Methoden zu lösen, unabhängig davon,

aus welchen akademischen Disziplinen diese kommen.

(Kroeber-Riel in Banning, 1987:61)

Different academic disciplines contributed to the lifestyle concept (Banning, 1987:32). The study of motivation and personality had its origin in psychology, variables such as influence of social class and reference groups were taken from sociology, as well as aspects of biological bases of behaviour and concepts from cultural anthropology as a theoretical foundation of marketing concepts.

To summarise, consumer research can be defined according to Kaynak (1978):

“…Konsumentenforschung stellt die Anwendung wissenschaftlicher Methoden zur Lösung von Marketingproblemen dar, um Unsicherheit zu reduzieren und die Qualität unternehmerischen Entscheidungen zu verbessern, die sich gleichermaßen auf die Unternehmensziele und Bedürfnisbefriedigung der Verbraucher beziehen.”

(Kaynak, 1978 in Wich,1989:6)

Empirical research is necessary to explore markets and subdivide them into significant sectors with distinct characteristics. To explain consumer behaviour and markets one has to draw on these theories for segmentation. Market segmentation is indeed essential for marketing purposes. Different functions of market segmentation will be described in the following section.

1.2 Strategic options for market segmentation

Until the middle of the 20th century the marketing concept was production oriented before shifting its focus to customer orientation (Michman, 1991:4). The importance of integrating human activities and behaviour into the study of marketing problems and concepts can be shown on the basis of Kotler’s (1988) definition:

“it is a market-focused, customer-oriented, coordinated marketing effort

aimed at generating customer satisfaction

as the key to satisfying organisational goals.”

(Kotler, 1988 in Michman, 1991:6).

With the growing understanding that it was necessary to focus more on the customers it became evident that customer behaviour followed distinct patterns and markets needed to be segmented. According to Wich (1989):

Grenzüberschreitende Lebensstilanalysen und psychographische Segmentierungsverfahren können zur Identifikation entweder

nationaltypischer Kundengruppen oder länderübergreifender homogener Segmente herangezogen werden und damit unmittelbar zu

Marktselektion und Produktpositionierung beitragen.“

(Wich, 1989:13)

Market segmentation plays a vital role in national and international marketing and market research. Hardly any company focuses only on one country. Regional differences beyond national boundaries are sometimes so significant that it is more adequate to conceptualise marketing operations in terms of regions. Market selection (of countries) and segmentation are two interdependent processes that reflect the coherence of the strategic business plan and the company’s operational units (Meffert and Bolz, 1998:108). The following table illustrates this interdependence.

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Fig. 3: General view of the strategic and international market selection (Meffert and Bolz, 1998:109)

Market segmentation can be achieved according to diverse characteristics ranging from geographic variables to psychographics. These approaches will be described briefly, following Michman’s classification (1991) and by adding Weintsein’s dimensions.

- Geographic Segmentation

Markets are segmented by regions, countries, cities, counties or any other geographical entity. Additional variables such as climate, or population density are used as well.

- Demographic segmentation

This is/was the most popular method to break down markets into sectors. Variables such as income, age, sex, family size, life cycle, income, occupation, education, religion, and race are most easy to find, measure and apply to marketing purposes.

- Behavioural segmentation/Product usage

In this case consumers were segmented by their purchasing behaviour: whether they are light-users or heavy-user, their usage and product loyalty status, and their state of purchase etc. just to mention a few.

- Benefits

How does a firm evaluate the benefits for the firm and the consumer according to price, service, special features, and/or the reputation of the seller?

- Segmentation by psychographics

This segmentation method uses psychological variables to differentiate between consumer behaviour patterns. In particular attitudes, interests, activities, values and personal traits are measured to help explain and predict consumer behaviour. Psychographics are sometimes synonymously referred to as lifestyle. Nonetheless, there exist at least 24 different definitions on average in the economic literature (Wells in Hartmann, 1999:49).

Nevertheless, nearly all of theses approaches failed to offer sufficient explanations for marketing decision, always considering only some and leaving out other dimensions. An exception is: psychographics. This approach includes all influencing variables, individual ones such as the psychological variables for example attitudes, as well as the external influences. Emanuel Demby (1974) underscores their importance:

generally, psychographics may be viewed as the practical application

of the behavioural and social sciences to marketing research;

more specifically, psychographics is a quantitative research procedure

that is indicated when demographic, socio-economic and user/non-user analyses are not sufficient to explain and predict consumer behaviour.’

(Demby, 1974 in Wells, 1974:13).

The usage of psychographics to establish lifestyle concepts offered new possibilities and many advantages which were seized by market research institutions and scientists (Banning, 1987:40). It was now possible to gain a large quantitative data sample in order to deduct consumer attitudes and interests. The result was a series of new concepts at first developed and applied in the United States before they reached Europe.

Market segmentation is a strategic tool that can be used on a national or international basis. The purpose is the same which will become comprehensible through Hassan’s (1994) definition of global market segmentation:

‘…is the process of identifying specific segments, whether they be country groups or individual consumer groups, of potential consumers with homogeneous attributes who are likely to exhibit similar buying behaviour.’

(Hassan, 1994:53)

The author prefers his definition of global market segmentation in contrast to world market segmentations that are based on geographical variables (country segments). The latter are limited by three critical facts:

1. They are based on country variables not on consumer behavioural patterns
2. They assume total homogeneity of the country segment
3. They overlook the existence of homogeneous consumer segments that exits across national boundaries.

Exactly this weakness is counterbalanced by the lifestyle approaches, segmenting consumers according to their specific behaviour and more in general by their lifestyle. Lifestyle approaches will be described in the following part.

1.3 Lifestyle approaches

First of all an appropriate definition of lifestyle is needed. The very first usage of this term dates back to the 16th century by Adler (Kramer, 1991:33). The evolution of this term in history is not relevant to this thesis and therefore will not elaborate on it. The focus is on the term ‘lifestyle’ in relation to the marketing concept, where this term was first used by Veblen and Weber at the beginning of the 20th century, pointing out that social situations change along the timescale as well as the expression of human needs and thoughts (Kramer, 1991:33).

Various definitions with different characteristics and focuses are used by numerous authors from different scientific fields. Bordieu underlines the relation between culture and social inequality (Bordieu in Driesberg, 1995:8), Endruweit describes groups, milieus and social stratums (Endruweit, 2000:7), Cathelat focuses on socio-styles as a classification system (Cathelat, 1990:24) just to mention a few different point of views.

To summarize, lifestyle defines the whole process of how humans live, think and behave. The most adequate definition of lifestyle for the scope of this thesis is by Engel and Blackwell, where:

‘lifestyle is a summary construct defined as patterns in which people live and spend time and money.’

(Engel/Blackwell/Miniard, 1993:369).

This definition captures all important features, starting by the process of thinking and anticipating consequences, moving on to actions of behaviour - be they conscious or unconscious. It is always problematic to rely on one existing definition, as they might not capture every important point. It is difficult to differentiate between needed and neglected terms for this definition as there is no guideline for what is or contributes towards a lifestyle. Therefore, this definition was used as a basic explanation for understanding this term.

The lifestyle concept was first linked to the marketing concept by William Lazer at the American Marketing Association conference in 1963 (Lazer in Hartmann, 1999:50; Banning, 1987:29). This was the beginning of a newly developing marketing perspective as the life-style concept was one of the first successful attempts to consider behavioural aspects in quantitative market research (Banning, 1987:37).

Different lifestyle research concepts will be briefly presented in the following section. A detailed description is not given as the Bolloré study is not explicitly based on one of these theoretical approaches. Nevertheless a brief summary does provide some useful information for further understanding of the background applied in this study (for a detailed review see Kramer, 1991).

1. The AIO approach

This approach is based on consumer activities & attitudes by Tigert and Wells (1971). The first quantitative research instrument was established in cooperation with the Leo Burnett marketing institute, Chicago focusing on: Activities, Interests and Opinions + basic characteristics (Kramer, 1991:159; Driesberg, 1995:146; Banning, 1987:41).

This concept included socio-demographic data as well as items on consumer activities (for example leisure time activities), interest and opinion. The first AIO survey was conducted in the United States with a sample of 1000 people (representative for the whole US population), using a 25 page long questionnaire linked to 300 AIO items (Driesberg, 1995:146).

In 1973 an AIO survey was carried out for the first time outside of the US in 14 countries. In Europe the following nations participated: Denmark, Germany, France, Finland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom (Linton, 1975 in Kramer, 1991:160).

2. The ACE approach

The Swiss marketing Research Institute on Social Chance (RISC) has established a system to monitor value changes in Europe: the ACE monitor, standing for Anticipating Change in Europe.

The concept and method is based on the US System, named ‘Yankelovich-Monitor’. The participating 12 European countries conduct their survey individually but evaluate the results on an international and comparative basis. In a panel design data is collected annually with a revision of the current questionnaire due to the rapid changes of values. Values are measured through Likert type scales and lead to ‘Eurotypes’ such as ‘Traditionalists’, ‘Rationalists’ or ‘Trendsetters’ in combination with social-demographic data (see Kramer, 1991:175-180).

3. The VALS approach

This approach describes the interdependence between VAlues and Life Style. It is theoretically based on Maslow’s (1954) pyramid of needs and Riesman’s (1958) social types of characters (Driesberg, 1995:162). It was developed by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in 1978 and at first only applied in the United States.

The British marketing institute Young & Rubicam used the VALS theory to develop an own concept for Europe: the ‘ Cross Cultural Consumer Characteristics (4 C’s)’. The focus is also on values. Mitchell (the inventor of VALS in cooperation with his team) explains the focal point as follows:

‘By the term ‘values’ we mean the entire constellation of a person’s

attitudes, beliefs, opinions, hopes, fears, prejudices, needs, desires, and aspirations that, taken together, covers how one behaves.

One’s interior set of values – numerous, complex, overlapping, and contradictory though they are – finds holistic expression in a lifestyle.’

Lifestyles is defined ‘by its distinctive array of values, drivers, beliefs, needs, dreams, and special points of view.’

(Mitchell, 1983 in Kramer, 1991:186)

VALS typology differentiates between four groups of individuals: need driven persons, outer-directed persons, inner-directed persons and integrated persons, which are then grouped in different segments. For example need- driven persons, i.e. individuals that live close to the basics minimum and seek to satisfy their elementary economic needs can be grouped into two life styles: survivors or sustainers.

The idea is to generate a typology, which segments the European consumers according to their values and lifestyles.

4. Socio-Styles & Euro-Styles

The socio-styles system was developed by Bernard Cathelat and the Centre Communication Avancé (CCA) in 1970. Their research is conducted in cooperation with 15 European research institutes. The aim is to bring the research methods in line in order to achieve more valid, reliable and comparable data. Since 1989 this system is referred to as ‘Eurostyles’ (Kramer, 1991:203). The scope on an European basis is relatively large, as the survey is conducted in two questioning phases. The first one has about 4000 questionnaires whereas the second one uses five times as many. A sample of 48 500 households in the European Union and 57 000 households in Europe leads to very reliable and detailed results.

The major cooperation partner is the GfK, (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung-in Germany whereas the company’s label worldwide is ‘growth from knowledge’) represented in nearly all European countries. This market research agency has establishes a Euro-style catalogue, categorising European consumers in 16 Euro types such as ‘Euro Dandy’, ‘Euro Moralists’ etc. (Kramer, 1991:220).

5. Dialoge2

This approach is based on the ‘Dialog’ study of the German publishing house Gruner & Jahr - 1981. The focus was to analyse societal trends and demonstrate their relevance for marketing (Driesberg, 1995:176). Further development of this concept including lifestyle features were published in Dialoge2 – ‘Der Bürger im Spannungsfeld von Öffentlichkeit und Privatleben.’

The population sample consisted of 6.112 persons that were interviewed with a standardised questionnaire of approximately 80 minutes. (Driesberg, 1995:178). This approach does not attempt to distinguish consumer types but groups individuals along 10 elements such as environmental conscious behaviour, personal values etc. which again are divided in 3 to 7 segments. This leads to groups such as ‘active citizens’ (active Öffentlichkeit) which consider themselves well informed and believe that they themselves can contribute to the solution of political problems. These persons generally have a higher level of education, earn a higher salary and read journals with high information content.

6. Burda lifestyle research

The German publishing house Burda- Verlag carried out a lifestyle research study of men and women in 1983. The idea is that societal values and individual life orientations change over the years. The survey consisted of a sample of about 1500 men and 3000 women, and identified between 8-9 different lifestyle types using cluster analysis (Driesberg, 1995:202). On the basis of 5 point scales of desires, attitudes and habits life styles of men are classified as ‘traditional heads of family’ or ‘dissatisfied’ and women as ‘health conscious’ or ‘pessimistic’ etc.

7. The SINUS approach

The German institute tried to find a better method to segment markets. Its theory is based on Edmund Husserl’s ‘everyday concept’ (Becker and Nowak, 1993 in Driesberg, 1995:192). The only possible way to describe and understand consumers totally is, when the perception of their daily life is seen. SINUS uses qualitative methods and open interviews in order to classify distinctive ‘environments’ (Milieu) as well as 41 standardized statements called Milieu –Indicator. As a result nine different groups are distinguished such as ‘traditional blue collar’, ‘upwardly mobile’ etc.

Specific conclusion

This review has shown that market research is a complex and difficult endeavour. The various approaches presented all tried to explain consumer behaviour in measuring certain variables and grouping persons as to certain life style types. A critical review of these different approaches is beyond the scope of this thesis especially since the data gathered in the Bolloré study are not explicitly based on these models. Even though these approaches seem quite different there are some similarities.

- Classification is based on scales measuring attitudes, needs and behaviour
- Socio-demographic data is also used as a basis for building typologies
- Multivariate statistical/mathematical methods such a factor analysis and cluster analysis are used for grouping persons from the sample

Even if the initial theoretical foundation of these studies are not identical the result is a classification of lifestyles. Obviously in a changing world a permanent, unchanging system of lifestyle classification is not probable and in my opinion cannot exist.

To summarise lifestyle analysis can be used for marketing purposes, in taking many if not all elements of the social sciences into consideration, with the focus on explaining consumer behaviour by segmenting consumer groups and constructing typologies. According to Banning (1987) lifestyle analysis presents itself as most suitable solution in international marketing and market research (Banning, 1987:57). The mayor problem lies in the inconsistence of consumer behaviour that changes frequently. It is difficult to link behaviour to attitudes or values, as these are also constantly changing, influenced by a situational dependent varying environment. The consumer today is exposed to an information overload from the media and his direct environment. This is why repeated (panel) studies are necessary in order to detect trends in behaviour and attitude changes of consumers.

1.4 International market research

In general, international market research does not differ notably from national research - the functions are the same. This becomes clear by the definition of marketing research, given by the American Marketing Association, Chicago (Weinstein, 1994:47).

‘Marketing research is the function which links the consumer, customer and public to the marketer through information - information used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve the understanding of marketing as a process.’

The scope of a market analysis becomes larger and the results are more significant as the base of comparison grows wider. Still the process remains the same, only the scope of sampling extends to more than one country. And exactly this difference creates the largest problems in the explanatory part of the research. The idea is to find some significant outcomes that are useful for the strategic future of companies. To adapt to locale differences, if there are some, to modify the marketing mix whenever necessary and to be well aware of national differences that could be fatal if neglected. But as Linton comments, the problem is: from which moment on is a description or perception defined as cultural dependent? (Linton, 1974 in Schuster, 1992:16).

Consumer behaviour can be studied from two different approaches. Either from the ‘etic’ or from the ‘emic’ point of view. The eticapproach departs from a more global perspective using universal models which are seen as applicable and transferable into all countries or cultures. In contrast to this first assumption, the emicapproach, is culture specific, postulating a relation between variables that are specific to separate cultures. It analyses from the subject’s point of view (refer to Hofstede (1980) and Holzmüller (1989) for more information).

According to Wich’s critic on the emic approach, the focus on specific national and cultural bound differences make a common base of comparison impossible (Wich in Schuster, 1992:18).

A new possible theoretical approach could be ‘ ethnoconsumerism’represented by Alladi Venkatesh (1995). According to this researcher, ethnoconsumerism is:

‘…the study of consumption from the point of view of the social group or cultural group that is the subject of study. It examines behaviour on the basis of the cultural realities of that group.’

(Ventakesh, 1995 in Costa/Bamossy, 1995:27).

This approach differs significantly from existing cross cultural studies. Although it can be linked to the emic approach, the author stresses that it is not the same. It is not a method itself, but research begins with the basic cultural categories of a given culture and their interactions (Ventakesh,1995 in Costa/Bamossy, 1995:27).

This approach is a sum of studies at different layers (Ventakesh, 1995 in Costa/Bamossy, 1995:44):

- The study of the cultural (symbols, belief system, norms)
- The study of the social (social organisations and institutions)
- The study of the individual (personality, behaviour)

To summarise, the ‘ethnoconsumerist’ approach is a multifaceted one that studies the individual not as an individual, but as a cultural being.

The problems of cross cultural studies or international market research are not only based on finding an adequate theoretical approach but also the time and the money available for extended research and validity of the obtained results. The development of cross cultural marketing studies is hampered by competitive and economic restrictions. If research is conducted for a business firm, the results are seldom published or accessible to the public. This impedes the free and continual development of scientific market research. For example, it was impossible to read the results of comparative market studies by the GfK which could have been relevant to my thesis due to the prohibitive costs of these publications.

Europe as a research field is quite interesting because of common history and at the same time its separate developments. Europe has had challenging changes before evolving to one entity from 1957 on. Although European powers strive to achieve homogenisation on many sectors, only few have been successful. Especially in terms of economical and political goals they seem to have reached their goals. Europe has been characterised by its idea to become a world power, a mayor player of the triad or negatively labelled a ‘fortress’.

Europe’s historical development has enabled researchers to compare countries and cultures more easily on an European base, offering a rich source of comparison. When legal frames are similar or even identical, the differences within the countries become more obvious and valid. But from which point on do differences become evident?

When the research focus is on consumer behaviour, the influences of culture must be taken into consideration. This means that the consumer is influenced by the culture in which he is living. Does this imply that culture shapes the consumer preferences?

Consumers influence the people with which they are in social interactions and their environment by their individual actions and reactions. Does this mean that the consumer influences his culture? From my point of view reality is a mixture of both types of interactions, each reacting to the previous actions of the other, consumers shaping and being shaped by their environment.

The world changes at a tremendous speed. Firms are able to offer their products nation wide and even on a global scale. Consumer needs and tastes seem to become more and more similar, and as American baseball caps, pop music and Coca Cola seem to be in universal demand from Afghanistan to Zaire a new type of customer is born: the global consumer. The importance for multinational firms is to recognise the strategy of global segmentation, to think global and act local which means to think about global similarities and adapt to local differences (Hassan, 1990:55).

According to Ventakesh (1995), consumerism is a global cultural phenomenon and subject to change (Ventakesh, 1995 in Costa/Bamossy, 1995:30). Cultures evolve and change constantly. The only difference is the rate at which they change with industrialised nations seeming to change more rapidly than traditional pre -industrial societies. Exactly this fact makes it so difficult to analyse and define them in detail. Sometimes the existing one has already been rendered obsolete by the new one. The following figure will illustrate the relationship between culture and economy and show its development over time.

I. Premodern

No distinction between culture and economy One implies the other

II. Modern

Economy is accorded a superior status because of its relevance to the creation of ‘productive’ value

illustration not visible in this excerpt

III. Postmodern-postindustrial

New perspectives on the relationship between culture and economy.

Culture subsumes economy

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 4: Relationship between culture and economy (Ventakesh in Costa/Bamossy, 1995:31)

All in all from the relationship between cultural aspects and consumer behaviour described in this chapter, it can be deduced that all countries participating in our reanalysis of the Bolloré study can be considered to be postmodern - postindustrial societies where culture subsumes economy but where relevant cultural differences (i.e. eating and food purchasing habits, language) exist which could be considered in a market research study.

1.5 The importance of the ecological factor and food habits

For the Bolloré study, the environmental aspect is an important feature. According to Asp (1999) an industry survey found out that the success rate for new food products introduced into the retail sector was 17% and that 83% of these products failed (for more details on factors affecting food decision see Asp 1999:287). This result points out the importance of thorough research in order to avoid expensive costs. As market research was conducted on consumer attitudes for a new product, innovative plastic packaging of fruit and vegetables, the ecological aspect is most significant for the obtained results and must not be neglected.

The environmental aspect has become a hotly debated question in modern times. A general concern about damaging the environment and its consequences is evident in the industrialised countries (Grunert and Juhl 1995:44). Increased consciousness of these issues by consumers and producers has not only been a simple consequence of governmental regulations but a general shift of importance and priority in attitudes and behaviour[1]. As all re-analysed nations are member states of the European Union they are to some extent bound to certain modifications and adaptations of European policies so that a general common level of cognition and behaviour is implied.

The question is to what extent consumer behaviour is influenced by attitudes towards ecological factors. Is the decision to purchase plastic packed or unpacked fruit and vegetables rational? Or are these decisions based on social influences? Or are they a mixture of both?

According to Thørgen (1999) environmental attitudes regarding everyday consumer behaviour and buying decisions are morally based (refer to Thørgen, 1999:439 for more detail ). It implies that individuals of today’s society feel an intrinsic motivation to behave in a way which at least does not harm the environment. Still consumers’ decision on packaging choices seems to be a purely economic decision (evaluating expected costs and benefits), with the consequence that they are strongly influenced by perceived costs. This statement must not but can be seen in contrast to Asp who describes factors affecting food decisions made by the individual consumer. According to Asp (1999) food habits are a component of culture and therefore underlie its influences. This includes a continuous adaptation to changes of the socio-economic environment, i.e. when travelling. Still, they are culture bound which is supported by Dr. Margaret Mead’s description of the relationship between culture and food where

‘food habits are seen as the culturally standardized set of behaviours in regard to food manifested by individuals who have been reared in a given cultural tradition. These behaviours are seen as systematically interrelated with other standardized behaviours in the same culture’

(Mead, 1943 cited in Asp,1999:287).

The way of using and eating foods is established partially by culture (for a detailed background of the sociology of eating see Heim, 1992:99). Furthermore, psychological factors are among the very strong determinants of what foods an individual eats. To conclude, food preferences have different characteristics like artistic ones for example and are related to psychological and physiological perceptions of the sensory attributes of food. The food marketing survey of food shoppers 1998 considered ‘taste’ as the most important one (for further reading on factors affecting food decisions see Asp, 1999:287).

Most market researchers focus on the direct environment of the consumer. Consumer attitudes towards product categories, activities and interests as well as the social and political environment are measured. The recording of actual behaviour is replaced by the measurement of attitudes. Few studies have focused on or even included environmental aspects. This can be due to one or more of the following reasons:

- It is not very easy to find a common scale of measurement,
- Factors influencing environmental attitudes and behaviour are very difficult to measure,
- Comparison is more difficult as environmental policies are country specific,
- Environmental attitudes often are not congruent with environmental behaviour,
- The ecological aspect is only one of many factors determining consumer behaviour.

Nevertheless, some studies have been carried out leading to interesting results. One, by Gruner & Jahr, the ‘dialogue2’ found that the percentage of environmental conscious type of households has been constant between 1988 and 1993 in Germany. Although ‘dialogue3’ showed that 74% of the interview sample perceived ‘support and improvement of environmental friendly products and packaging’ as ‘very important’, 24% were not willing to purchase these products or limit their product choice (Gruner & Jahr in Monhemius, 1993:10). This result shows a discrepancy between attitudes, cognitions and behaviour. According to v. Alvensleben and Steffens (1990) people engage in environmental protection only when personal sacrifices such as higher prices, less taste or less facility are reduced to a minimum. This is also the case if products labelled ‘environmental friendly’ are associated with a positive contribution for the person such as ‘more health’ (v. Alvensleben/Steffens 1990 in Plöger et. al. 1993:43).

One of the mayor misunderstandings according to Herker (1993) is the incorrect usage of the term environmental friendly and environmental consciousness. In the strict sense there are no environmental friendly products, only products that are less environmental damaging. Henion (1976) underlines this differentiation in his definition of environmental products:

‘An environmentally beneficial product is a product containing a set of environmentally related attributes which on balance either already contribute,

because of the materials the product is made of,

or eventually will contribute significantly more,

to the reduction in pollution than do those of another product

with which it is compared.’

(Henion in Herker, 1993:7)

This differentiation leads to a problem of measurement as a consequence. Different scales have been developed in order to operationalise such constructs (for more details see Grunert and Juhl, 1995:39). Therefore, whenever products are characterised it is possible and will be necessary to separate between the distinguishing features (these are for example the colour, the size, the weight, the brand etc.) and the subjective characteristics of the products such as its image, the aesthetic components etc. (Böcker in Herker, 1993:6). According to Jacoby (1976b) a product is viewed as a ‘bundle of information cues’ which the consumer selectively attends to and uses in arriving at product evaluations and a purchase decision (Jacoby, 1976b:336, also Levitt, 1984:96 in Wagner, 1997:15).

This careful distinction may lead to different outcomes in analysis. Imkap (2000) refers to two German surveys which support the importance and need of consumer information. Aspects of user quality, functionality, user friendliness or durability are the most important characteristics of consumers demand for ecological product information (for more details of the surveys see Imkamp, 2000:193).

Another problem of measurement is the use of the term ‘environmental friendly/concerned’ for people. The definition of a person concerned about the environment is only one through comparison. People in a comparison can be either more or less environmentally concerned than others. According to Henion’s (1976) definition:

‘The ecological concerned consumuser[2] is a person whose values, attitudes, intentions or behaviour exhibit and reflect a relatively consistent and conscious concern for the environmental consequences related to the purchase, ownership, use, or disposal of particular products or services.’

(Henion, 1976 in Herker, 1993:8)

A confusing problem occurs whenever the values and attitudes of a person are not consistent anymore, meaning that a person can have two or more direct attitudes that contrast each other in one action. To further clarify this idea, an example is given. For example, a person that defines itself as environmental concerned wishes to buy an environmental beneficial product. Whenever this product does not fulfil all required characteristics, the person might prefer another one although it is more damaging to the environment (Herker, 1993:9). This could explain partially the gap between cognition and behaviour that is continually observed in everyday activities. According to Wagner (1997) some researchers defined this phenomena as a so-called ‘attitude-behaviour gap’ or ‘word – deeds inconsistency’ (Wong et. al, 1995 in Wagner, 1997:20).

Thøgersen (1999) refers to the theory of psychological reactance which has been applied in the environmental domain. Campaigners should just not underestimate its implications and consequences (Thøgeresen, 1999:453). Differences of opinions may be due to attitudes in the different countries in which the products are launched.

Some studies have researched the question of ‘environmental concern’ using Europe as a base for comparison (Schuster, 1992:19). Nevertheless only few focused onto cognitive aspects of ‘green’ consumer behaviour (Thorgesen, 1994 in Wagner, 1997:15). An analysis is facilitated as the members of the European Union are subject to the policies of the European commission. This means that the legal frame of these members is somehow similar, but not identical.

It is noticeable that national differences in environmental concern exist across the European countries. The population of some of the member nations are known as very environmental concerned, so called ‘green countries’ such as the Scandinavian and northern European countries, whereas others only fulfil the minimum of required guidelines[3]. This implies that in an analysis of the Bolloré comparative market research study on fruit and vegetable buying and preferences for packaging, the factor of environmental concern must be taken into consideration. Schuster (1992) confirms this fact as Germany, the Netherlands and to some extent as well France are countries of progressive environmental policies (Schuster, 1992:297).

This section has shown that the consumers of France, Germany and the Netherlands are relatively environmental concerned. This fact is important for Bolloré’s promotion of its new plastic packaging and must be taken into consideration when planning strategic steps.


In this chapter Bolloré the firm that commissioned the study, its market research goals as well as the methodological approach of the study will be described. The insight given will make the background of the research study more comprehensible and clarify the further steps.

2.1 Bolloré: the firm

Bolloré is a French firm operating on a worldwide basis with locations on every continent. The Bolloré group consists of the family led company Bolloré and several (about 5) attached companies, within which Bolloré has direct or indirect effective control (the Bolloré Investissement). It is among the European’s top 200 groups with a net sale of EUR 5,119 million in 2000 and a workforce of 30.000 employees worldwide (URL:http://www.Bolloré.com, 25.11.2001).

The core competencies or activities of the firm can be divided into three mayor group profiles (cf. appendices A):

1. Services (transport and fuel distribution)
2. Industrial activities (plastic film, speciality papers and dedicated terminals and systems)
3. financial activities (agribusiness assets and financial holding)

The new product ‘the plastic package’ for which the research study was developed belongs to industrial activities. As the other two sectors of activity are not of mayor relevance, they will not be described in detail. Instead, the focus will be on the firms activities in plastic films.

During the last years, Bolloré has become a mayor player in the market of heat-shrink film for wrapping purposes, which is nevertheless only a smaller part of the company’s activities. The plastic film activity has gained successful improvement by a wide range of products (wrapping toys, foodstuff etc.) and measures to reinforce Bolloré’s sales network which has been rewarded by a 16% growth of the business in 2000 (URL:http://www.Bolloré.com, 25.11.2001).

In respect to this modern problem ‘the environment’ Bolloré has tried to contribute a solution with the idea of launching a more environmental friendly plastic film. Nevertheless, the company must be careful with its strategy of launching as market researches have shown a discrepancy between attitudes and behaviour. This implies that results obtained through market research may not necessarily achieve estimated success. Although the use of environmental friendly plastic has increased which is due to an increased use in total but not for the use of packaging in particular, some firms are still sceptical about their success.

Biological plastic packaging (made of synthetic material) has been introduced in some European countries by large companies but with the result of a general unsatisfactory acceptance (Article FAZ 24.12.2001, nr. 2999/p.19). This article about biological plastic has revealed that larger companies hesitate to switch to this material as no concrete mode of recycling exists yet according to Eberhardt, responsible for packaging at Nestlé’s. Danone had even to withdraw their product, a yoghurt cup that can be composted, due to a lack of acceptance. ‘Consumers are just not willing to pay a higher price for a more environmental friendly packaging’. This statement is nevertheless a contradiction to a non representative market research conducted in Kassel by the agency factx (Cologne). In cooperation with the supermarket chains ‘tegut’, ’Edeka’ and ‘Rewe’ a packaging capable of being composted was introduced in the stores with high acceptance by consumers. The consumers were willing and eager to try and switch to the more environmental friendly packaging and even to pay a slightly higher price as long as their price limits are not exceed (HNA, 15.10.2001, nr.239/p.8).

The article has shown that the discrepancy between attitude and behaviour is due to a lack of a recycling system in this practical case. In many other cases a proper alternative packaging option is just not offered (Thøgersen, 1999:441). These different recent results have shown that environmental friendly packaging is a very delicate matter to be handled with care.

The company does not hesitate to make large investments into the research and development section. One of the main research goals is to develop films with selective permeability and ‘barrier’ films, which could keep foods fresh for a longer period.

These research and development goals will only be successful if the targeted market is willing to accept this new product. Innovation will be only rewarded if it can be successfully sold. Because of this it seems a prerequisite to analyse the markets and to find potential customers, ready to buy this new product. Therefore, a market research study was conducted to find out whether consumers would react positively towards this innovative product before it would be launched.

2.2 The international market research project

Bolloré decided to work in cooperation with a group of European universities. This decisions provides advantages for both sides. The costs of research is much lower although a large sample (on European basis) can be interviewed, and in addition it offers business students the possibility to work on a real case study acquiring important field experiences. The project proceeded according to Meffert and Boltz’s (1998) process of international market research.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 5: Overview of the process of international market research (Meffert and Bolz,1998:82)

The following six universities of five European countries participated:

1. Seinäjoki Polytechnic- Business school (Finland)
2. IUT Quimper- Université de Bretagne Occidentale (France)
3. ISE- IUP Annecy- Université de Savoie (France)
4. Universität Gh Kassel- (Germany)
5. Hogeschool s’Hertogenbosch- (the Netherlands)
6. Universidad de León– (Spain)

The overall research goal was to find out which market opportunities exist for Bolloré’s new product. The leading questions to answer were:

Are there any cultural differences in fruit and vegetable buying, storing and packaging preferences- or is Europe a rather homogeneous market?

If there are differences, to what extent do they have an impact on the behaviour of consumers?

Which national markets offer sales opportunities and which are unfavourable towards the product?

What kind of marketing strategy should Bolloré pursue?

2.3 Methodical procedure

In cooperation with Bolloré a questionnaire was established, consisting of 164 questions concerning behavioural, attitudinal as well as socio-demographic items for a quantitative analysis (cf. appendices B). To guarantee comparability of interview results the questionnaire was translated into different European languages on the basis of an English master questionnaire.

In addition, qualitative interviews were used to gain a deeper understanding of the motivations underlying preferences. Small non representative samples were chosen for this part of the study.

For both quantitative and qualitative interviews conducted in the study, Bolloré defined participants of the sample being 1).women, aged between 30 and 50 years old, 2).regular purchasers of fresh fruit and vegetables with a frequency of more than once a week.


[1] Surveys reported that large segments of the population were (highly) concerned about the state of the environment, for more details see Sloan, 1993:72, also MacKenzie, 1991:70 in Wagner, 1997:20).

[2] ‘Consumuser’ is a mixture of consumer and user.

[3] See a study of values, environmental attitudes and buying of organic foods by Grunert and Juhl of the School of business, Denmark in 1994.

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Consumer preferences in a comparative European market research study
University of Kassel
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Sarah Kniel (Author), 2002, Consumer preferences in a comparative European market research study, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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