Consumers’ mental model of food safety for fresh vegetables in Nairobi: a field experiment using the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique:
Okello, Julius J
Lagerkvist, Carl J
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Purpose To examine consumers’ perception of food safety for vegetables at traditional urban market outlets in a developing country context and test whether curiosity-motivated information acquisition and personal control over choice of stimuli influence consumer involvement, resulting in more differentiated mental models. Design/methodology/approach The Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET) in standard and modified form was used to develop consumers’ mental models for food safety. Findings The cognitive content and structure of aggregated consumers’ mental models were identified and mapped. The maps included negative and positive meanings, indicating a need to tackle the hygiene problems prevailing in most traditional markets. ZMET generated a more differentiated map when people were empowered with a camera to collect stimuli. Research limitations/implications Using ZMET to understand food safety perceptions avoids consumers being led in their responses, views and feelings about food safety. Practical implications Policy, regulatory frameworks and marketing actions by value chain actors in the fresh vegetable subsector should give priority to tackling the hygiene problem prevalent in most traditional markets in developing countries. Originality/value This paper provides novel needs-driven theoretical and practical insights into the actual meaning representation of food safety, which actually drives consumer thoughts and behaviour. Making use of a camera in the collection of self-provided images for the ZMET interview led to higher levels of involvement and further differentiation of mental models.