Eating Algae? Consumer Perception of Algae-Based Food in Austria

Oliver Meixner, Richard Nieschalk, Rainer Haas


Algae-based foods are becoming more and more popular in recent years. They not only provide health benefits for the human organism but are also cheap and sustainable to produce. Therefore, algae-based novel food products hold potential for future expansion within the consumer market. On the basis of a discrete choice experiment, we assessed consumer perception and willingness to pay (WTP) of Austrian consumers for innovative food products made from algae on the example of algae crackers. To approximate the weighting of the product attributes origin, price, flavor, production method, and packaging, Choice Based Conjoint Analysis (CBCA) was applied (online survey; n = 301). In addition, socio-demographic data were collected and the preferences of the participants towards algae food products were determined using scales from literature. Subsequently, WTP for each product attribute was approximated based on the outcome of the CBCA.
Results of the CBCA show that the attribute “production method” is the most important attribute with an overall importance of 26.7% (maximum part worth utility for the attribute level “organic”), followed by price (25.6%; as expected, the lowest price has the highest part worth utility), origin (20.6%; maximum part worth utility for domestic origin), packaging (17.3%; paper packaging) and taste (9.8%; almost no differences between “spicey”, “salt”, “sweet”). Based on these results, the overall WTP was assessed: +1.90 € for products produced in Austria compared to products imported from the EU; +2.42 € for organically produced and +1.44 € more for paper packaging (in comparison to plastic packaging). Altogether, the present study shows that in general algae-based food products are positively perceived by consumers; the findings are roughly in line with previous studies from literature, with some interesting differences—e.g., higher WTP for organic algae-based food compared to similar studies where regional production was evaluated to be of higher importance. Therefore, it is expected that innovative algae foods have significant potentials in today's consumer food market; however, food producers should consider the expectations and perceptions of consumers in order to be able to successfully introduce novel algae food products in this—at least up to now—niche market.

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ISSN 2194-511X


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