This sample essay on Benecol Ingredients provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

1. Introduction

Today’s lifestyles are vastly different from those of past. Consumer attitudes to food, nutrition and health are maintaining at a relatively high criterion on safety and quality. ‘The focus of nutritional science is shifting toward the concept of optimal nutrition'(Doyon & Labrecque, 2008). The functional food industry which initiate healthy and nutritious foods, has taken this opportunity to be developed for a number of years.

Raisio Plc. is a food and functional food company and its products have been on the market since 1995. Raisio develops, produces and markets health-promoting ingredients, feeds and malts worldwide. Its main product Benecol is the world’s first and best-known brand of cholesterol-lowering functional foods. In the UK, the term about ‘sterol-based ingredients’ has been recognised over the last few years and still relatively new, and no other strong competitors among the same kind of products.

Benecol see the UK market as a great opportunity to develop its products and enlarge their UK customer base. To achieve this, better informing consumer behaviour and consumer-product relationship are perceived as essential efforts for Benecol group to inform.

What Is Benecol

By understanding the relevant theories relating to customer behaviour and marketing strategy, this report aims to explore the methods for Benecol brand to achieve better customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction, especially at a specialist consumer behaviour consultant view.

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There are four main parts which present in a structural way. Firstly, introducing a brief overview about the Benecol Company; secondly, provide the main conceptual issues involved in the implementation of Means-end chain; and the associated methods in the context of Benecol company research and apply in the UK as the final part.

2. An overview of Benecol products

As a Finnish innovation, Benecol is the only range of foods that contain the ingredient plant stanol ester. It works with the body to effectively reduce cholesterol levels but also improves the health and well-being of blood vessels. Some features of this active ingredient have been revealed by more than 50 clinical studies. Studies indicate the safety of the Benecol ingredient that plant stanol ester passes through the body ‘practically unabsorbed’ and the effect that Benecol products ‘lower cholesterol up to 10 per cent and harmful LDL cholesterol up to 15 per cent as part of the daily diet'(

Functional foods containing the Benecol ingredient are sold in almost 30 countries and in many different product applications. Currently, these include dairy products such as milk drinks, cream, cheese-style spreads and yoghurts; cereal products such as soy drinks, pasta, bread and margarines; meat products and ready-made salads.

3 Means-end chains

Although functional foods are becoming popular, organisations know relatively little about how consumers’ behaviour perceives functional foods. For product development and marketing, it is important to know how consumers explain their interests, how that interest is linked with their values and what the broader life values behind their interest are. Value of a food product is based on the self-relevant consequences that can be achieved by consuming that particular product. A particular hierarchical value map has been developed to find out the links between product attributes, their self-relevant consequences and values, that is means-end chain (Grunert, 1995).

It has been suggested in academic literature that the means-end chain theory could be a relevant way of putting consumer-oriented food product design into practice (Audenaert & Steenka,p. 1997). The Means-end chain represents that the major consumer processes that link values to behaviour. A common frame of means-end chain has three different levels: attribute; consequence and consumer values.

When consumers evaluate each product, they will consider a set of this product’s attributes firstly. Attribute is a relatively specific product characteristic, not only the packaging, colour, price, quality and other external attributes, but also sellers’ reputation, brand and other abstract attributes. The consequence is the result that people’s consumption can provide. IF this result can meet the expectations of consumers, it will be defined as ‘benefit’. Value is more abstract than consequence (Devlin et al,2003). It involves people’s expectations, with the aim of determining what action or life is best to do or live. One assumption has divided value into terminal and instrumental values. As values motive and adapt consumers’ thinking and behaviour, they act in a certain way during consumption (Reynolds & Gutman, 1988),.

Gutman (1982), describe the process about value influencing customer behaviour as this means-end chain. It focuses on the linkage between these three levels. One important aspect seeks to understand how consumers make links between self-relevant consequences and values. Another important linkage is ‘Consequence–Products attributes’, that is, if consumers want to get benefits, they have to learn and familiar with the product attributes. The relationship figure shows as following.

Figure1. The Means-end basis for involvement

From this figure, it is possible to clarify how product attributes are linked with consequences and how these consequences are then linked with consumer values (Reynolds and Gutman, 1988). Means-end chain provides a useful tool for product development and marketing to study the structures behind consumers’ opinions or impressions and makes it possible for important information to be used when targeting consumers with the product information, advertisements or final products. As a useful tool, it has been used successfully in clarifying consumer perceptions of functional foods (Jonas and Beckmann, 1998). Roininen et al. (2000) have used laddering to identify how consumers perceive health and hedonic aspects in food

Jonas and Beckmann (1998) clarified consumer perceptions of functional foods in England; health was mentioned as one reason for choosing functional yoghurt, cereals and butter in England.

Figure2. Hierarchical value map of food – for the UK consumers

Resource: Baker, et al (2004)

Take Hierarchical value map of the UK consumers to food ingredients as an example, if the food ingredients contain attributes as no additives or preservatives and not genetically modified, these features may meet customers’ psychosocial consequence as their preference of this kind of products, and the functional consequences about health related. Finally, the product are unique to reach consumers’ value aspect, such as enjoying a high quality of life and well-being health, even achieving personal self-esteem as get a respect for other people.

4. Identifying consumers’ means-end chains and Benecol products

‘Measuring means-end chain is best accomplished with one-on-one, personal interviews in which the researcher tries to understand a consumer’s meanings for product attributes and consequences’ (Peter & Olson2008). A study (published by Urala& L�hteenm�ki, 2003) revealed some product categories and means-end chain of functional food. In almost all product categories, five central means-end chains describing the respondents’ food choices were found. These means-end chains referred to healthiness, taste and pleasure, security and familiarity, convenience, and price. In the hierarchical value maps, the links mentioned the most often between attributes, consequences and values is healthiness. Benecol focuses on dairy products.

4.1 Identifying key attributes considered by consumers

Here are several methods to identify key attributes considered by consumers, such as elicitation and laddering interview, all required to communicate with customer directly. Benecol can achieve this information by experiments, or distributing questionnaire, or interview customers with a set of triad tasks. But MEC models provided a deeper understanding which can ‘dig’ out consumers’ deeper knowledge about beliefs of psychosocial consequences and value satisfaction (Peter & Olson2008). The ZMET (the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique), as an effective approach to elicit the potential consumer knowledge, Raisio company can explore this innovative qualitative interview method in its market research. Involvement also can be an important method to discover means-end knowledge, because this method not only identifies the product’s attributes, but the consequences and affective responses of consumers.

4.2 Focus of Involvement

Consumers may be involved with various environments, specific activities and other people. An advertisement, a brand, an event or a situation, all can be factors that motive customers acting as a certain behaviour when they purchasing (Peter & Olson2008). Marketers need to know what is the exact relationship between these factors and personally relevant.

Benecol’s product attributes are strongly linked to important consequences. It is undeniable that one reason for customer choosing Benecol product is cholesterol-reducing ingredient. To some extent, this kind of foods that can be the functional consequences for helping protect against heart disease and other diseases. After user experienced the effect of Benecol products, they may recommend this product to his friends and find themselves as a wise buyer. These feeling and actions are interpreted as psychosocial consequences. Therefore, an effective cholesterol-reducing consequence may satisfy customers.

In the other hand, consumers may believe the Benecol product attributes are not associated with any relevant consequences, that is, not meet their value patterns of health. This situation will experience them little or no involvement with the product. For instance, although some studies indicate the safety of Benecol’s products, customers worry about the plant stanol ester passes through the body ‘practically unabsorbed’, a little amount of this chemical may still absorbed by the system of organs in the body and is harmful for health.

To solve and release these concerns, Benecol need to prove the effect about its products by real user cases, such as provide science based evidences and official documents. In order to let customers know more about their functional food. After detailed implementation, customers will feel more involved with the product.

4.3 Intrinsic self-relevance

Understanding consumers’ intrinsic self-relevance can help organisation to design product attributes that consumers will connect to desired consequences and values (Peter & Olson,2008). Consumers usually acquire means-end knowledge from their past experiences with purchasing (Griffin & Hauser, 1993). When they use or observe others using a product, consumers learn the certain product attributes will cause consequences that can help achieving their goals and values. Actually, Benecol’s customers in the UK do familiar with the certain food characteristics; from their previous experience, Benecol milk drinks and Cheese-spread ingredients have good tastes, but lower cholesterol may be a relative new concept for most of them. Therefore, Benecol need to understand both the focus of consumers’ involvement and the sources that create it, and crucially, replacing their old food products-purchasing habit, while people can think about particular consequences of purchase that are important to them.

For example, Benecol can seek to enhance intrinsic involvement with this attribute by focusing on the benefits of using and the negative consequences of not using their cholesterol-reducing product. Even through consumers are not personally involved with this functional product currently and may hold the sceptical attitude about the benefits of this attribute, they can become temporarily involved with the process of buying the product at the first time.

4.4 Understanding the key reasons for purchase and the consumer-product relationship

By totally understand consumers’ means-end chain. We can explore it into Benecol’s brands. Take dairy products as examples, at the product knowledge level, the attributes of milk drinks involve high price, containing cholesterol-reducing ingredient, and healthiness. At consequence level, good taste is a function, and cholesterol-reducing ingredient is supposed to prevent heart disease; then these functional consequences turn to ‘family enjoy this product’ as a psychosocial consequence; finally, combing these features together to meet the consumers’ social recognition as’ I purchase a high quality brand’.

Understand the consumer-product relationship can help Benecol target the UK market. There are four segments for the product category at different Brand loyalty levels: Brand loyalists, routine brand buyers, information seekers and brand switchers. Under different marketing strategies, Benecol can address the unique type of product knowledge, intrinsic self-relevance, and involvement of consumers combing with these four market segments, in order to select their target customers.

5. Conclusion

It is undeniable that MEC has the potential to provide an increasingly better understanding of consumer-product knowledge and its behavioural implications. Consequently, we also believe that it has the potential of becoming an increasingly valuable tool in consumer-oriented functional food design processes not only for Benecol, but all the Raisio brands. In some researchers’ opinion, the progresses of these research areas can associate with techniques within consumer-oriented food product design, and develop the implementation of MEC, ‘with the consequent desired gains in its efficiency and effectiveness’ (Costa et al, 2004, p.413).

MEC model has broadened the study range of consumer values. It provides a comprehensive guidance for researching in the consumer behaviour aspect. This approach links values, consequences and attributes to overcome other studies just research the limitations of consumer values from a single level. In addition, this approach overcomes this inadequacy and establishes visual relationship between psychosocial factors of consumers and external product entity.

However, during the process of implementing concepts, more research in the functional foods areas need to be done to minimise the shortcomings of MEC. In future studies, further exploration of MEC model still need to be improved. There are some unclear factors about customer’s memory storage, the ways they remember products attributes and consumer organisations and consumer-product knowledge; and in practices, how do these knowledge be aroused when the customer dealing with the actual decision-making.

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Benecol Ingredients. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Benecol Ingredients
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