People have extended inappropriate eating habits from homes to urban centers in many parts of the United States. Numerous studies have revealed that most people in New Jersey consume their meals in fast-food restaurants. Such foods have been proven to contain significant amounts of calories, salts, and fats. As a result, they are referred to fast or junk foods. The most common fast foods that are consumed by the residents of the New Jersey include chips, candy, gums, sweet desserts, crisps, alcoholic beverages, and carbonated drinks among others.
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Although many literatures concerning fast foods and their possibilities of causing various health disorders such as obesity, diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, decreased calcium absorption, and cardiovascular diseases among others exist, people have been adamant to change their eating habits that are closely related to their posh lifestyles. The trends of fast-food consumption are characterized by particular behaviors such as skipping breakfasts and eating junk diets. In other cases, most adolescents and young adults develop a tendency of eating a lot in events such as parties and night outs among others.
In the process, they tend to eat junk foods. Most researchers have mentioned that several factors that include behaviors, environment, cultural, lifestyle, social-economic status, education, and habits were responsible for food choices. To a significant extent, such factors have led to increased junk food consumption in numerous parts of the US. The survey aimed at evaluating the consumption of fast foods amongst the residents of New Jersey in the USA. Other objectives that were considered during the study included determination of whether the habit contributed to a considerable percentage of dietary intakes amongst the residents besides the factors that influenced the purchase of fast foods.
The essay presents a review of various literatures on fast foods and consumer behaviors. It focuses on the brands of fast food awareness, purchase behavior, preferences, and factors that affect consumer preferences. The fast food industry started in Southern California around the 1940s. The industry led to a change in food consumption among the residents of the USA (Guthrie, Lin, & Frazao, 2002). Currently, almost every place in the USA has fast food centers in the streets, airports, boundaries of interstates, shopping malls, schools, gas stations, and hospitals among others. A study that was conducted by Anand (2011) indicated that culture plays a critical role in purchasing of fast foods by most consumers. Other factors that the researcher mentioned included social-economic backgrounds and lifestyles among others (Anand, 2011).
Furthermore, the ease of preparation, satisfaction, and portion sizes of junk foods are crucial factors that attract the industry’s diverse consumers. It is also noted that children mostly go to fast food outlets for fun due to peer influence.
According to Anand (2011), many people who consume fast foods in New Jersey are not limited to adults. Children are currently observed to be fond of such diets. Other issues such as environments and locations of such premises also encourage fast food consumption in the state (Anand, 2011). The taste of junk nourishments is one of the leading factors that increase the probability of their choice amongst the young people. A research that was conducted by Kobayashi (2002) revealed that time, taste, and technological advancement potentially influenced the growth of the industry and preference of fast foods.
Technology has led to the transformation of economies and rapid urban growth. This set of circumstances has resulted in amplified consumption of fast foods in New Jersey (Kobayashi, 2002). Besides, advertisement and promotion of fast foods using tools such as the Internet and media have also increased their consumptions (Kobayashi, 2002).
Consumers’ Awareness towards Fast Food Products
According to Keller (2003), brand awareness is the ability to distinguish and identify a particular product under various conditions. This property can be built through recurrent usage and vulnerability of the brand that leads to the desired experience in the end. The experience of consumers because of using a particular brand can be realized through hearing, seeing, tasting, and/or even thinking about it. When a consumer uses a particular brand for a long period, the experience sticks in the brain. This state of play results in repeated consumption of the product (Keller, 2003).
This case is highly evidenced in the fast food industry where many consumers have developed a great taste for particular nourishments. On a different viewpoint, Keller (2003) attests that brand awareness is an asset that should be used in combination with other factors to build strong product equity. This situation serves as an alleviation measure for incidences that may arise such as inadequate information on the quality and health implications of fast foods.
The study further elaborated some behavioral factors that influenced consumers’ likening to branded fats foods. Brand awareness can also be termed as the consumer’s level of understanding the benefits of a particular product that increases underpins their purchasing will. Keller (2003) further equated brand awareness with an asset that is durable and sustainable in a business. In that case, it was perceived as an aspect that ensured familiarity with low-involvement goods such as soaps and fast foods among others. Such products were deemed easier to recall at the time of purchase (Keller, 2003).
According to Keller (2003), conventional mass media such as television and radios among others are used effectively to create brand awareness and promotion of fast foods. Additional sources of creating awareness include event promotions, publicity, and sampling among other approaches to swaying the attention of consumers. Media is one of the ways through which a consumer becomes aware of the information on a product. It influences the approval or disapproval behavior towards a fast food product (Keller, 2003). The brand is an important factor in ensuring improved purchase of fast foods.
According to Orth et al. (2004), the level of product awareness of soft drinks among the consumers was high as indicated by the purchasing mode. Becker-Olsen, Cudmore, and Hill (2006) also mentioned that a buyer’s behavior is significantly influenced by the attitude towards a particular product. However, the current study has limited its survey on the reasons for the purchase and source of information on fast-foods awareness.
Purchase Behavior of Consumers
Numerous researchers have noted varying factors that influence the purchase behaviors and decisions of consumers on fast foods. Such factors include brand reputation, recommendation, packaging, price, promotion, and the place of purchase. Becker-Olsen et al. (2006) revealed that consumers with high educational levels were found to consume more processed products. The research only considered the educational level while it omitted other factors that affect the purchase behavior of consumers. This project examines the consumers’ purchase criteria on fast foods based on sex and age differences among others.
Brown (2003) stated that the buying behavior was significantly influenced by the experience of consumers, influence of their friends, neighbors, and families. The research further revealed that the consumers were primarily swayed by the opinions of their family members to purchase and consume regardless of their income groups (Brown, 2003). The research has gone further and gathered information on many other aspects such as brand preference and perceptions of consumers that influence consumers purchase behavior on fast foods.
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Orth et al. (2004) attested that well-known brands tend to show multi-dimensional brand associations that are in tandem with the idea that consumers have developed familiarity with their products. Consumers can be willing to spend more energy on processing information regarding familiar brands compared to unfamiliar ones. The information on the message of the brand and its consistency are helpful in the determination of consumer preferences. Orth et al. (2004) posits that images that show more information about the brand, slogan, and maintenance of brand awareness also influence the choice of fast food buyers.
However, purchasing decisions are not mentioned in their research. The researchers generalized their findings on consumer preferences. Orth et al. (2004) further suggested that it was inapplicable for a buyer to rely on single brand purchases. However, the consumers were able to identify several brand names when shopping. According to Orth et al. (2004), repetitive advertising should be applied to promote brand recall. It is well known that consumer behavior is also influenced by current fashions; hence, the study only limited its scope to the point that repetitive advertising was meant for promoting preferences. They fail to mention the combination of brand recall and advanced technology in fashion trends and advertisement means.
Grier et al. (2007) presented the findings on the purchasing and consumption patterns of junk foods by children in the USA. The results indicated that a higher percentage of the households, especially among the African Americans purchased fast foods, followed by the Hispanics and non-Hispanic Americans in the country. They revealed that satisfactory taste and quality, and household’s perception that the foods were healthy products were the main reasons for the increased purchase and consumption of junk nourishments. However, the researchers failed to address other factors that boosted the sales of processed peach products such as the influence of consumers by shopping friends, attractive advertisements, favorable prices, and product availability among others.
Grier et al. (2007) identified that the change in consumption pattern arose from changing eating habits. They realized that increased parental influence significantly affected the consumption of junk foods among children. The children mostly prefer junk food products as compared to other consumers. According to the researchers, fast foods are increasingly becoming popular among diverse consumers ranging from travelers, workers, and tourists among other groups. In addition, children, being subsets of consumers, learn everything from the family and society (Grier et al., 2007). The researchers further mentioned that parents knew the good and bad attributes of fast foods.
They also clarified the dissimilarity of children attitudes of towards junk nourishments. Female children considered the fast food from the broad food chain context while the male ones factored it from a satiety point of view. The study explained both the preferred and unwanted attributes of fast foods, attitudes of children, and parental influence. However, the researchers did not consider the loyalty status, perception, motivation, physical factors, and the overall consumer behavior towards fast foods. The study was also limited to fast foods but did not consider the factors that affect consumer preferences. Children who formed part of the consumers ate such foodstuffs during outings with their parents. In the event, they learn about different types of nutriments other than fast foods (Grier et al., 2007). Although a similarity was indicated in the current study that took place in the New Jersey town, the research done by the researchers was an exploratory study rather than a survey.
In a separate research, Becker-Olsen et al. (2006) studied consumer behavior towards the consumption of instant foods in the USA. The research revealed that consumers create their ideas based on product characteristics. The features played important roles in influencing decisions of the consumers. Becker-Olsen et al. (2006) further mentioned consumer brand preference with respect to soft drinks and other fast foods; found technology has enabled most consumers to love the some well-known brands. Pepsi and Coca-Cola are some of the worldwide-recognized brands. In addition, quality was deemed an important factor that swayed consumer attitudes towards branded foodstuffs. Martin-Biggers et al. (2013) revealed that taste was also a significant factor that influenced the purchasing decision as against the product qualities.
Perception of Consumers on Fast Foods
Fast foods in the American society are one of the biggest influencers in consumer spending. The dominating categories of population that consume the junk foods include children, adolescents, and adults. According to Austin et al. (2005), the burgeoning number of fast food consumers in the USA has contributed significantly to the country’s economy. It has been proven that about one-fifth of the population in the USA consumes junk nourishments in restaurants per day.
Although this trend is perceived to have some economic benefits, it has been noted that various health-related complications are associated with eating junk foods in the recent past (Austin et al., 2005; Grier et al., 2007). Current studies have also shown that consumers have different perceptions of fast foods. The majority of consumers view fast foods based on its health and economic significances (Austin et al., 2005).
Currently, many people are aware of the effects of consuming disproportionate junk foods. To alleviate such problems, current fast-food restaurants tend to offer healthy fast foods to their consumers with a view of improving positive perceptions on such foods. Most advertisements on fast foods are currently focusing on health promotion aspects by giving advices on the preferred diets that have low fats and calories among other health benefits (Austin et al., 2005).
The survey was conducted in New Jersey in the USA. The population sample included students from various colleges, institutions, and various customers who eat their meals in fast-food restaurants. 426 samples were included in the survey. The questionnaires were distributed to the students in their respective colleges. Some were issued with online questionnaires due to the vast distances. Customers who frequent the fast food restaurants were also issued with the questionnaires upon their consents. 300 students were issued with questionnaires while the rest were customers who consented to be included in the survey. There were 305 males and 121 females. The majority of the respondents were aged between 18 and 30 years. About 20 percent of the respondents fell between 30 and 35 years-old while 10-percent were ranged from 35 and 45 years.
The questionnaire used for the study comprised demographic information about the respondents and 10 multiple-choice questions. The demographic information further elaborated the Living Standard Measurement (LSM) besides age distribution among others. Other parts of the questionnaire focused on fast food consumption trends and consumer behavior. A consent form that was to be read first by the respondent to either consent or decline was also included for ethics. The respondents were then allowed to complete the questionnaires in 20 minutes. The study was conducted between February and March 2015. Some of the questions that were addressed included the following.
- What are the reasons for purchasing fast food products?
- What are the sources of information on awareness of the fast foods?
Limitations of the Study
The study was based primarily on both primary and secondary data that was collected from sample journals based on fast food survey methods. The secondary sources required questionnaires that were administered in the survey. The questions were restricted to the scope that only entailed consumer behaviors regarding consumptions trends of junk nourishments. In addition, some responses that were obtained from respondents such as suppliers and managers of the food outlets were omitted. Furthermore, some consumers in the respective journals were furnished with information about their memories and experiences.
The data collected therefore was subject to biases because there was a possibility that some respondents did not take fast foods. The study area was also limited to New Jersey; hence, the findings were not applicable to other markets since differences did not occur among the consumers concerning demographic and psychographics characteristics.
The collection and analysis of data were limited to cross-sectional surveys and tabular, chart, graphical, and inferential analysis. The survey was also meant to collect data at one time in New Jersey. This set of circumstances led to the omission of some trends and changes that pertained to the population behavior pertaining to the purchase of fast foods. Due to the online distribution of the questionnaires as part of the survey, non-randomized techniques such as self-directed sampling were also included for sample inclusion. At this point, a limitation was further ensured to select those individuals who had participated in online surveys only. A surface mailing survey was conducted in various institutions with a view of aiding the overall response rate. Although the achievement of such situations was possible, some respondents failed to submit genuine answers due to constant online communication.
Reasons for buying Fast Foods
The graph below depicts various primary factors that drive the purchasing habits of fast foods. At the outset, availability of snacks such as biscuits accounted for 36-percent of the purchase decisions. The desire of junk nourishments due to taste represented 24-percent while the influence of family members stood at 53-percent. The other reasons for the purchase of biscuits included the influence of friends and relatives 9%. However, 17% of the consumers bought the products due to affordability. The factors considered while purchasing crispy snacks (chips) were readily available accounting for 37%, taste 29%, influence of friends and relatives 20%, influence of family members 7%, convenience of use for snack 4%, and cheap 2% as shown in the figure.
Fruit juice was consumed largely because of its taste 49% followed by ready availability 18%, influence of friends and relatives 14%, 13% acquired the likes for fast foods from family members, 4% satisfaction and 2% affordability. 47-percent of the respondents consumed ice creams because of their taste, 21% of them claimed that friends and relatives influenced them, 9% learned the purchase behavior from family members, 8% mentioned cheap, 7% readily available, and 4% other reasons. 2% of the respondents repeatedly bought fast foods due to satisfaction while 1% claimed that they intended to save time that is consumed by the preparation of other foodstuffs.
Source of Information on Awareness of the Fast Foods
Source of information to create awareness of fast foods in the study area provided the following analysis. In the case of biscuits, it was observed that the television was a significant source of information about the brands accounts for 73% of the respondents. Friends and relatives covered about 9%. Shopkeepers, retailers, and window displays represented 5% each. Magazines represented 4% while radio and others had 2% each.
In case of chips, friends and relative topped as the sources of information 43% followed by shopkeepers 19%. Window display had 14%, newspaper 9%, television 4%, other sources 2% and radio 1%.
Television topped with 26% as a source of information on the awareness of ice cream followed by friends and relatives 17%. Shopkeeper represented 15% of information awareness while the newspaper and magazines covered 14% and 10% respectively. Window display signified 8% while the radio and other sources represented 6% and 4% respectively. Lastly, information on fruit juice was promoted by 39% on the television, friends and relatives 16%, magazine 13%, window display 10%, radio 8%, shopkeeper or retailer 7%, newspaper 5%, and other sources 2%.
The present study made a systematic effort on studying fast food consumption in New Jersey by analyzing the purchasing reasons and sources of information. The following conclusions were made after the study. At the outset, the availability of the range of products, taste, and quality of fast foods were the main factors that influenced the purchasing behavior of fast foods by respondents. A significant number of the respondents in different age brackets were aware of the fast foods.
Based on the results of the study, the following suggestions were recommended. At the outset, majority of the residents in New Jersey have an increasing tendency of purchasing fast food products. Consumers of fast foods in the regions encompass all age categories such as children, adolescents, and even adults. However, research should be done to examine the effects of fast foods on the health of consumers. It should also focus on sustainable marketing strategies that meet the consumer needs.
The essay clearly depicts that the consumption of fast foods in New Jersey is becoming increasingly rampant. As a result, various governmental arms that are concerned with health issues should remain in the forefront to encourage people to change their lifestyle habits with a view of alleviating critical health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and some types of cancer among other maladies.
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