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The Impact of Gender on Purchase Decision and Buying Behaviour of Thai Consumers

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Type of Academic Paper – Dissertation

Academic Subject – Business

Word Count – 18113 words

Executive Summary

The study attempts to highlight the impact and influence of the demographic variable gender on the consumption and purchase of ready to eat products in Thailand. The growing trend towards Western-style eating habits for the Thai male and female consumers has brought an increase in the growth of the quick-service industry in the region with an increase in the demand for ready to eat products such as fast food items, packaged snacks, diner specialities, chilled and frozen RTE products. The study analyses the relationship between gender and psychographic variables, including product attributes such as taste, price, convenience, brand, and service quality to identify eating habits and buying behaviour trends for each gender type. The study uses in-depth interviews of Thai RTE consumers to highlight the particular impact of gender on the consumption of RTE products.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Background

The study aims to analyse the buying behaviour, user preferences, and various factors that affect Thai consumers’ purchase decisions with regards to ready-to-eat meals or Instant Foods. The term ‘ready-to-eat’ encompasses a wide variety of packaged and instant or cooked meals that reflects convenience, economical prices, and great taste. This research specifically uses information available to analyse consumer buying trends for fast food meals with an emphasis on the gender impact on purchase decisions and consumption. The concept of ready to eat meals was originally developed and initiated to facilitate people who are too busy to prepare or cook their own meals including those who want to savour the taste of special delicacies that cannot be prepared at home.

The ready-to-eat meal packages such as fast food items and diner specialities largely attract people and busy professionals who are unwilling to cook their own food or looking for convenience. There is a huge demand for ready-to-eat meals speedy food and restaurant specialities in Thailand, while households also frequently buy packaged meals. Studies reveal that over the last twenty years, a gradual change in the lifestyle and living patterns of the Thai consumers and statistics reflect an increase in the purchase of packaged foods and ready to eat meals with fast food items leading the list. The product Chilled Ready-to-eat foods has also experienced a sharp increase in sales as reflected by its current value term, which increased by 17% in 2008 amounting to 2.6 billion Thai Baht (Morse, 2009).

Changes in Thai males and females’ lifestyles over the years have brought about a change in the eating habits and food preferences of Thai consumers. The growing forces of modernisation and technological advancements, this has provided marketers with new products in the market that cater to different segments of the target market. Globalisation and technological growth have sparked changes in people’s lifestyles, not only in Thailand but across the world. The Thai market has experienced this rapid change in terms of the evolution of consumer consumption trends, food suppliers, purchase behaviour, and the consumers’ health (Lovell, 2010).

Today, ready-to-eat meals including fast food and packaged goods are food becoming increasingly popular amongst Thai men and women of all ages, with adults in the age range18-35 reflecting more affinity for RTE products to their different tastes, convenience, and affordable price. The trend has become more common amongst the working class representing professionals affiliated with business enterprises and other institutes comprising of both males and females. The variety of ready-to-eat food products has provided the busy working class who do not have enough time to prepare their meals to enjoy the convenience and taste that comes with the RTE products (Kotler, 2000).

The rise in the RTE retail outlets and quick-service industry in Thailand over the years has primarily been due to the consumers’ inclination towards western food concepts and consumption trends. Today males and females in Thailand influenced by the western ways of convenient consumption and RTE adoption have given rise to a culture that reflects western-style eating habits. These trends are very dominant in Bangkok, popular for the wide variety of fast food outlets and ready to eat products.

To better understand the effect and impact of gender on the consumption of ready to eat meals, it is important to understand the various product attributes, marketing elements, and psychographic factors that contribute to the eating habits of males and females. By better understanding the relationship between these factors and each gender category, marketers can position their products more effectively by incorporating patterns identified to cater to each market segment for males and females (Parry, 2001).

Purpose of the Study

The consumer demand and preference for Ready-to-eat meals have grown considerably in Thailand over the years due to the introduction of inexpensive, tasty, and convenient food items available for easy consumption. This, coupled with the changing lifestyle trends of Thai Consumers with an inclination towards western consumption patterns, has paved the way for retailers to introduce new RTE products in the market. The demographic factor of gender also has a significant role in the consumption and purchase of these RTE meals as males and females tend to exhibit different psychographic profiles and eating habits. Marketers can use the results obtained by analysing gender impact on RTE food consumption in Thailand to cater to different target markets and segments.

Research Objectives and Question

The specific research aim of the current study is to gain some insight into the buying behaviour, individual preferences, and consumption patterns of Thai consumers regarding RTE meals. The research aims to maintain focus on the impact of the demographic factor ‘gender’ on the consumption and purchase of such ready-to-eat meals.

Hence the research question developed is as follows:

How does gender affect Thai consumers’ purchase decisions and buying behaviour with regards to Ready to eat meals?

The intent is to study in detail some of the key drivers that may motivate Thai consumers to purchase ready-to-eat meals, emphasising the individual buying patterns exhibited by males and females. The gender differentiation aspect will be studied by evaluating the relationship between the gender factor and marketing mix elements, including psychographic factors to gauge each gender category’s impact on the purchase and consumption of RTE meals. The objectives of the research are hence highlighted below:

  • To understand the growth and development of the Quick service industry in Thailand due to the change in consumption patterns and lifestyle dynamics for Thai consumers.
  • To study the various drivers and key factors that have led to an increase in the preference and consumption of ready-to-eat meals by Thai consumers.
  • Evaluate the gender differentiation regarding the selection, purchase, and consumption of ready-to-eat meals, including the key drivers that motivate each gender category, males and females.
  • To assess and evaluate the impact and effect of the demographic factor gender in consumption of RTE meals, a study in detail the contribution of psychographic factors such as personal preference, attitude and product perception, including product features such as price, taste, convenience, and brand to the consumption of RTE meals for each gender category.
  • To better understand the significance of gender on the consumption of RTE meals and its overall impact by reviewing the relationship between the above-highlighted factors or marketing mix elements and the demographic factor gender.
  • To recommend enhanced marketing productivity and product positioning a thorough evaluation of the results derived by studying the impact of gender on Thai males and females’ RTE consumption, highlighting further areas of additional research.

 

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Chapter 2: Literature Review

Introduction

This chapter provides an overview of previous research on preferences for ready-to-eat meals, especially research targeted at the desired population being studied; Thailand. It introduces some important background information for the case study that comprises the main focus of the research described throughout the thesis. It is imperative to establish a context of the literature review by first providing;

  1. An explanation of its specific purpose for this specific case study
  2. Comments on the previous treatment of RTEs, gender influence on preference to consume RTEs, and other psychographic factors may influence its consumption.
  3. The indication of the scope of the work presented in this chapter.

The literature review’s main aim was to survey previous studies on RTEs consumption based on gender and other factors that may impact their increased use. This was necessary for scoping out the major data collection requirements for primary research to be conducted, and it developed part of the new research design process (Denscombe, 2003). The approach adopted for this particular review finds its foundation in grounded research work. According to Easterby-Smith et al. (2002), this approach is considered acceptable in familiarising existing research before collecting primary data. However, it may contradict the advice presented in the original grounded theory.

  1. Appreciating previous work in the field of interest served three purposes in the current study;
  2. Providing direction in the construction of data collection tools; guarding against the risk of overload at first data collection stages.
  3. Understanding the findings from existing literature into a formal review helped maintain the current study’s sense of direction and perspective.
  4. Raised opportunity for comprehending a critical analysis of the actual meaning of the data collected when the study reached the stages of data analysis.

A wide variety of secondary data references were used as the significant bibliographic tools for recognizing relevant literature for review. Relevant publications were found in the literature for many academic domains such as psychology, business studies, food technology studies, marketing studies, psychology, urban studies, and strategic management. Many of these publications take the form of research papers. Systematic literature searching led to key publications on RTFs and the psychosocial factors that give preference to their consumption. Studies were targeted that permitted analysis of psychographic aspects, such as gender, to be included. The literature reviewed in this study is thematically analyzed to allow an organized way of grouping relevant material in addition to its scrutiny.

Relationship and Consumption between Gender

In modern society, enactments of doing genders, such as masculinity, femininity, manhood, womanhood, and sexuality, are connected to how an individual presents themselves (Roberts, 1998). These individual presentations are often influenced by cultural expectations of what is considered appropriate to the perceived gender identity. Consumption of different products and services contribute to the presentation of one’s self and gender identity. The clothes, hairstyles, accessories, choice of food, and other purchases or activities that a person engages in has the ever-present factor of gender (Zayer et al., 2012). Due to this phenomenon, many firms have increased their desire to build long term consumer/brand relationships by comprehending the factors that influence them in such a compelling way. According to Fournier (1998), a primary feature of the consumer-brand relationship is the self/concept link, the extent to which a brand delivers significant identity concerns. Self-congruency theorists such as Rosenburg (1979); Ross (1971); and Sirgy (1986) have suggested that consumers tend to purchase items and brands that are consistent with their image. Kates (2002) argues that self-image’s most important and focal part was an individual’s gender identity.

Marketing practices have solicited the use of gender-self in a wide variety of markets. Marketers currently use sex as an essential segmentation variable and as a means to develop implicit meaning by considering gender-related cues to a specific brand (Kidd and Nicholls, 1999; Zayer et al., 2012). The consumer’s gender identity and sexual orientation have been used to target consumers in emerging gender market segmentations. For example, many marketers are pinpointing metrosexual individuals, and this is defined as males who are heterosexual, hip, concerned with their appearance, and are in touch with their feminine side (Palan 2001).  However, studies such as Palan (2001) only report biological sex and treat the component as the sole determinant of gender-related behaviour. Ye and Robertson (2012) note that gender has become interchangeable with sex because such a dichotomous variable provides a comfort zone for researchers to measure and interpret the consumerist implications of gender. However, this kind of approach, such as that used in Palan (2001), overlooks the important differences between sex and gender and results in bias research and distorted representations of complex gender-related marketing.

Early gender identity and consumer behaviour research such as Bem (1981); Fischer and Arnold (1994); Palan (2001); and Spence (1993) suggest that gender identity plays a significant role in consumer behaviour ranging from assisting the individual in information processing to connecting them to the rest of world; coordinating the individual’s perceptions to developing attitudes about appropriate social behaviours. Sirgy (1986) theorized that brand perceptions are congruent to consumers’ gender image, and gender-self can develop strong gender congruency effects, especially in terms of brand loyalty. According to a study conducted by Fry (1971) and Cathy and Mitchell (2003), consumers preferred goods or spokespersons that match their sense of femininity or masculinity, but not simultaneously. These determinations tend to be influenced by the gender of the spokesperson.

Psychological gender role plays an important factor in a consumer’s choice of products and brands. This varies from sex as a sole gender difference based on the premise the men are masculine and women are feminine. Evidence from studies such as Bem (1981), Braun and Traore (2015); and Rudrappa and Collins (2015) suggest that an individual’s psychological gender identity is not necessarily parallel to their biological sex. According to Bem (1974), masculinity and femininity are orthogonal psychological traits, and individuals will identify with each trait to varying degrees.

Craig and Liberti (2007); Kang (2003); and Massoni (2006) found in their studies that psychological gender, including masculinity and femininity, can impact a consumer’s product and brand choices. Placed in a specific set of circumstances, such as gift shopping, psychological gender may explain a greater amount of difference in consumer behaviour than sex, as seen in Craig and Liberti’s (2007) study. According to Bem (1974), when categorizing consumer behaviour, feminine gender identity is guided by communal orientation while, on the other hand, masculinity is guided by an agency orientation.

Marketing Mix Theories and Gender Consumption

The marketing mix theories are also important in analyzing how male and female consumers tend to be affected by the highlighted factors and product attributes. The marketing mix generally consists of productive elements that can be utilized by the enterprise or firm to motivate the consumer and the purchase process in a positive manner. Using the right combination of the marketing mix is to influence the product demand and the consumers into developing a positive brand image, thereby enhancing the brand value and increasing the opportunities for the repurchase of the particular product or service offered (Parry, 2001).

The marketing mix for ready to eat meals such as fast food items and packaged goods, including diner specialities, includes types of RTE meals consumed, restaurant types or brand, service quality, price, convenience, location, and promotional stuff. Most ready to eat meals are recognized by their particular brand, packaging, unique taste, and service quality that signifies convenience; hence consumers tend to relate to such marketing mix elements for these products. For such ready to eat products, the marketing mix theories would focus on ensuring that the product delivered to the market or offered in the market is complete from the marketing mix perspective with regards to related attributes such as taste,  price, place, and convenience that cater to both males and females (Chitraporn, 2011).

The marketers would focus on incorporating specific food preferences for the products that are most likely to be repurchased by this consumer category which would include attributes such as taste and affordability while positioning for RTE products that fit the psychographic profile for women would include an emphasis on marketing mix elements such as taste, restaurant and service quality. Better positioning of such ready to eat meals for both types of consumer types would entail focusing on introducing the marketing mix’s right combination for males and females in the offered products. An analysis of the various attributes and product features of the RTE products and their relationship with the demographic variable can provide an insight into the right combination of marketing elements for each market segment (Lovell, 2010).

Packaging, design, and the specific restaurant quality, including brand name, can significantly affect the selection and purchase decisions for the ready to eat meals as both males and females tend to relate to such psychographic factors. The image projected by the attributes tends to develop the overall brand image for the specific product. Based on the hedonic or utilitarian sides for a consumer, both males and females would develop different perceptions and attitudes towards the RTE product regarding its packaging, service quality, and brand appeal. The purchase of the same product is also facilitated when the consumer starts to recognize and develop a psychological relevance with the product that caters to their needs (Kotler, 2000).

For this reason, many ready to eat retailers and fast food outlets tend to use strong, vibrant colours to signify their brand and make their product a standout in the market. Both males and females relate to these design characteristics and package features, helping them make repurchase decisions. This is especially true for teenagers in Thailand who prefer eating various fast food items and ready to est meals that cone as chilled or frozen packages. This is because both male and female consumers or adults develop an affinity for these products that are facilitated by their eating preference and their psychographic relevance to product features such as packaging, labels, design, and restaurant ambience (Parry, 2001).

Many males prefer to eat out in diners and quick service restaurants because they prefer the environment and ambience. Many households in Thailand and females, especially attributes such as service quality and cleanliness, are important drivers for making purchase decisions. Therefore many females prefer restaurants that focus on food hygiene and quality delivery. Price is also a fundamental marketing mix element that affects the males and females purchase decisions or buying behaviour when the ready to eat products are concerned, as studies reveal that consumers in Thailand are price-sensitive, with males being more conscious of the affordability aspect reflecting strong utilitarian values. For many male and female consumers, especially household heads and parents, if teenagers prefer RTE meals, this is a significant factor affecting buying decisions.

In Thailand, fast food prices are relatively higher than the local food outlets. However, considering the income brackets of families and consumers that prefer to consume RTE products, marketers tend to define product prices that cater to consumer preferences. This is also exhibited by the increased amount of consumer spending on fast food items and packaged goods. For better positioning of the ready-to-eat products regarding gender-specific marketing, the price is a factor that can further be optimized by marketers as it is a marketing mix element that is significant for the demographic variable gender (Parry, 2001).

Another marketing mix element that also holds significance when consumer buying behaviour is concerned is the promotion factor. Promotion is considered a marketing activity that disseminates the benefits and merits of the product being offered to the customer while providing him with an incentive in parallel to his purchase. Promotional offers can vary from company to company, but mostly ready to eat firms and fast food outlets in Thailand use a wide variety of promotional features such as discount coupons, samples, premiums, and refunds. The Thai male and female consumers are largely attracted by such promotions and advertisements, which helps the marketers get to know their customer base and preferences in a much better way and enables established brands to stimulate and enhance their sales (Lovell, 2010).

Advertisement and promotional stuff tend to have a strong influence on the ready-to-eat product consumers’ buying behaviour. Studies reveal that the diners and places that offer discount coupons and meals at discounted prices or with free merchandise tend to attract more consumers. This is important regarding both males and females who are equally influenced and attracted by lucrative promotional offers by quick-service diners and fast food outlets.

Marketers also tend to focus on the channel distribution for the ready to eat products ensuring that the offered products are easily available to both males and females. Studies have shown that location is not significant for the variable gender as both males and females prefer eating at diners located near their offices or homes. In Bangkok, for example, ready to eat products are available throughout the place in large retail outlets. Simultaneously, fast-food chains are spread across the region to provide convenience to the consumer on the go or those looking for quick service. The option of quick service delivery at home or office is also provided to males and females for ease and convenient eating (Kotler, 2000).

Ready to Eat (RTE) Food Products

The ready-to-eat (RTE) market has seen a surge in consumers’ interest due to the emergence of technology, steady economic growth, and cultural shift (Reed et al., 2003). Gradually convenience is considered one of the most important and desirable attributes in food product and has been translated into plenty of product categories, including the highly sought after RTA described as a growth area in many markets, particularly that of developed countries such as the United States, the UK, and a large portion of Europe (Peeraput and Chaipoopirutana Sirion, 2016; Piaseu et al., 2004; Rodas-Moya et al., 2017). Several factors have surged its consumption, but the most notable is changing consumer trends and lifestyles, which have significantly contributed to the development of ready to eat meals. Reed et al. (2003) argue that most often, consumers want a meal to eat, or at most, one that can be easily assembled at home rather than opting out for ingredients to prepare and cook. Studies such as those of Kinsey et al. (1996) and Caraher et al. (1999) found a major de-skilling, de-domestication, and redundancy of traditional cooking skills. However, they have also noted an increased interest in food. In addition to fulfilling the requirement of convenience, there needs to be the sensory appeal of products. It must taste good, or else there will be no purchasing activity (Piaseu et al., 2004).

Studies, such as Parry (2001), reveal that demographics and psychographics play an important role in the purchase process and decision-making for any product affecting consumer buying behaviour. For any product, attributes such as the price, brand, appeal, convenience, and conformity to consumer requirements play an important part in the consumer’s decision-making process. In ready-to-eat food products, psychographics and demographics play significant roles in determining consumer preferences and buying behaviour. For ready-to-eat or RTE meals, such attributes or product features would include the price of the product. It’s taste and appeal, convenience, packaging, and the particular brand that the product belongs to. All these features affect the purchase process and decision-making dynamics for the consumers (Parry, 2001).

Chitraporn (2011) examines the significance of the demographic variable gender on the selection and consumption of RTE food products reveal that the factor gender is not significant to the purchase, selection or repurchase of RTE products as males and females both tend to consume RTE meals and fast food items exhibiting little difference in the consumption patterns. However, the difference lies in the psychographic factors and marketing mix elements that affect the purchase decision and consumption patterns for both males and females (Chitraporn, 2011). For each gender category, factors such as taste, price, place, packaging, and convenience may hold different priority levels, which tend to translate into purchase decisions (Chitraporn, 2011).

In fact, one aspect of why gender is not significant to Fast food or RTE consumption in terms of gender differentiation is the fact that both males and females prefer the great taste and the variety that accompanies the ready-to-eat products providing for a product attribute that attracts both types of consumers in almost equal proportions. There are variations in the type of RTE meals preferred by males and females individually, along with other attributes that affect the purchase decision, such as price and place.

According to a statistical study by Morse (2009), teenagers and families with a strong educational background and stable income source tend to buy more RTE meals. There is a high preference for fast food products and packaged well. For this particular research, the focus is on studying the impact and effect of the demographic factor ‘gender’ on RTE meals consumption. The research would focus on the preferences of the ready-to-eat meals regarding males and females with an intent to study the underlying factors such as price, convenience, brand and individual preference of males and females for the consumption of such meals. The relationship between each of the contributing product attributes with gender needs to be studied in detail to gauge the specific impact of gender on the buying behaviour and consumption patterns of Thai consumers with regards to the ready to eat meals and packaged foods; an aspect that was lacking in the study conducted by Morse (2009).

Kotler (2000) conducted a study examining how consumers choose RTE products based on what gives them pleasant or unpleasant sensations. Kotler (2000) found that hedonic consumers tend to emphasize restaurant and product features such as location, food taste, and cleanliness or brand, while utilitarian consumers focus more on price, affordability, and quick service or convenience. Generally, the utilitarian values for the ready to eat meals amongst consumers hold priority compared to hedonic values when selecting and purchasing the ready to eat products are concerned as both males and females consider convenience and price to be the key drivers for their purchase decisions (Kotler, 2000). Using a larger data sample consisting of both males and females representation in equal numbers can provide an insight into the hedonic or utilitarian significance for each gender category (Kotler, 2000). However, Kotler’s study does not provide significant insight into a consumer’s decision-making pattern. The methodology of the study used a questionnaire that provides a relatively small insight into the purchasing process. However, the current study will overcome the issues in Kotler (2000) by focusing on an in-depth interaction with respondents.

Thailand’s Ready to Eat Market

According to Chitraporn (2011), people who lie within the same demographic category can reflect different psychographic profiles as individual preferences, attitudes towards a product, and demographic attributes would differ for each individual. Thus, both these aspects, demographics, and psychographic are beneficial approaches that must be utilized for positioning and marketing products through a collaborative approach that uses both these approaches in the best way to enhance marketing efforts and success. To analyze the gender impact on Thai consumers’ buying behaviour and consumption trends for RTE foods, it is hence necessary to study in detail the psychographic attributes and RTE product features that define purchase trends for males and females. The evaluation of such factors would also help in gauging the gender differentiation regarding the RTE food products, further providing an understanding of the segmentation and consumption percentage for each gender category.

Males and females exhibit different individual preferences and eating habits reflecting variation in their buying behaviour and consumption trends, as discussed in section 2.2. Factors such as preferences, psychographic, price, and product also features largely affect the buying decisions for males and females when selecting, buying, and consuming food, especially ready-to-eat foods. The trend for food consumption has witnessed a change over the last two decades in Thailand, with households and adults within the age range 18-35 showing a keen interest in purchasing fast food items and packaged meals. The quick-service restaurants in Thailand have also grown since their inception and affinity for RTE meals. Fast food is considered one of the most distinctive examples of the collaboration between people, technology, globalization, and innovative concepts, with retailers such as McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut gaining immense popularity amongst the consumers in Thailand (Kotler, 2000).

The increase in fast food outlets, diners, and RTE retailers in Thailand has infused a significant change in people’s eating habits and food preferences. With the increase of new RTE retailers, more males and females in Thailand are actively involved in selecting and consuming fast food goods and ready-to-eat meals. The increase in demand for RTE meals by Thai male and female consumers is due to the marketing mix elements and psychographic factors that lure the males and females to purchase RTE meals.

According to a survey conducted by A.C. Neilsen, Chitraporn (2011) states that almost 75% of Thai consumers mentioned that the ready-to-eat meals are easy and convenient as there is no time consumed in preparation of these foods. While 83% of consumers worldwide staged that convenience and cease, we’re the key drivers for purchasing and consuming these fast foods and RTE meals. 40% of the Thai consumers said that ready-to-eat meals were inexpensive and cheaper to purchase than the raw materials needed to prepare them. The second key driver for consuming such ready-to-eat meals was the economic costs associated with the products.

Figure 1: QSR Market Share (Chitraporn, 2011)

The growth of new RTE retailers across Thailand and the variety of products they offer, such as fast food meals, chilled RTE, packaged foods, and frozen RTE, have created an opportunity for economic growth and productive competition in the market. The fast-food industry has the highest growth percentage in Thailand, with males and females opting to buy Rte meals from fast food outlets and quick service restaurants rather than going to a fancy restaurant or preparing frozen or chilled RTE at home. The market share for the quick service industry market amongst the restaurant industry in Thailand is 20%, as cited by PCOCI (Kotler, 2000).

The main factor that has contributed to the males and females opting to consume fast food is the demographics and the marketing mix elements, according to Chitraporn (2011). Most makes and females in Thailand have adopted a consumption pattern similar to the western consumers, with preferences for convenient RTE meals increasing with time. Most consumers highly affected by this change include males and females, ranging from teenagers to busy professionals working at enterprises. The study of the product attributes and psychographics would further provide an insight into the individual buying behaviour of males and females, including its overall impact on RTE consumption.

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Gender Impact and Marketing Mix

The increasing trend of Thai consumers towards the consumption of ready to eat meals such as fast-food items, frozen ready to eat meals and packaged goods enabled one to gain an insight into the particular factors that contribute to this trend and the inclination of the males and females towards the adoption of Western-style eating habits. Ready to eat meals are highly popular amongst Thai consumers, primarily because of their taste, affordability, and convenience. The attributes and features of such ready to meals are lucrative enough to attract the various types of consumers belonging to different age groups and educational backgrounds (Parry, 2001).

As highlighted earlier, the demographic factor gender tends to have strong relationships with various product attributes such as price, taste, place and convenience. Studies suggest that quick-service restaurants and fast, good outlets across Thailand provide an opportunity for male and female consumers to relieve themselves from hunger and the time-consuming preparation methods of self-cooked meals by enjoying the benefits of quick service meals at affordable costs. The particular product perception and attitudes towards using the ready to eat products for both the males and females would help provide a clearer understanding of the eating preferences and consumer behaviour  (Lovell, 2010).

Studies conducted to evaluate the attitudes and psychographic factors that lure males and females to dine out and consume ready to eat meals suggest that there are generally two factors or values that contribute to the product image or the attitude towards eating out. These two values are classified as hedonic values. Utilitarian value where hedonic value is related to the emotional quotient or aspect such as feelings, mood and perceptions regarding the product whereas the utilitarian value is associated with the value of functional aspects or reasoning that is reflected by values such as price, feasibility, convenience and fullness (Chitraporn, 2011).

These studies further explain consumers’ attitudes with hedonic and utilitarian features by exploring factors such as price, place, taste, service quality and menu variety, brand value, promotional incentives, and diner facilities through consumer responses. An analysis of such factors tends to further shed light on each consumer type’s hedonic and utilitarian values for a particular product. People tend to reflect different psychographic profiles with a mix of the hedonic and utilitarian values for any demographic variables. Marketers then use these psychographic profiles for demographic factors to position their products and cater to different market segments.

For an RTE or ready to eat the product, the males and females in Thailand exhibit different psychographic profiles with consumer behaviour for each gender category dependant on the highlighted hedonic and utilitarian values. For males, these hedonic and utilitarian values project a strong affinity for ready to eat meals with values such as place, price and taste being largely significant. In contrast, for females, a different combination of these value types would make up the psychographic profile, leading to variation in RTE meals’ consumption pattern (Parry, 2001).

Product Attributes Affecting Conceptual Purchase Framework

Most of these marketing mix elements are part of the product attributes that significantly impact developing the psychographic profiles for various types of consumers. This is similar to preparing meals where the consumers are affected by product attributes such as taste, price, convenience packaging and restaurant type. These attributes strongly relate to their hedonic or utilitarian value for both males and females, thus contributing to their eating habits, buying behaviour,r and consumption patterns. Most of the brand and market research focuses on particular product attributes to explore marketing prospects and segmentation further.

When gauging the impact and the particular effect of gender on the selection, purchase and the consumption of ready to eat meals and fast food products the product attributes such as taste, price, brand, packaging, convenience and place must be analysed to assess the particular significance of the demographic variable gender on the consumption of RTE products. These product attributes include the marketing mix elements that have a strong impact on the consumers’ purchase decision and their food preferences. The RTE products’ product attributes are discussed in detail below to understand better how each attribute contributed to the purchase decision for males and females in Thailand (Parry, 2001).

Taste

The taste for any food item is considered the most important factor in determining its market value and prospective sales regarding consumer liking and affinity for the specific product. For RTE or ready to eat products, taste is considered a key driver of consumption when gender is considered. As more males and females tend to select and buy ready to eat meals such as fast food products and packaged goods the main motivational factor behind the purchase and repurchase of these products is the unique and different taste associated with each type of these products that lure the Thai male and female consumers into buying these products (Kotler, 2000).

The taste is a factor with a strong relationship with gender, reflecting the factor of gender on RTE food consumption. Many of the teenagers, both male and female who frequently purchase RTE meals from quick-service restaurants, tend to do so because of the great taste and colossal variety of RTE products in the market.

Price

The price of any product is the most important factor that determines customer affinity and repurchase probability. The more affordable a product is for a customer, the more number of times it would be repurchased adding to the brand value. A prime reason for many. Of the Thai male and female consumers buying ready to eat products is the affordability aspect that attracts both types of consumers to buy fast good items and packaged foods. This is especially true for households and the working class that earn a reasonable amount of income every month averaged between 20,000 to 30,000 Thai baht.

Males and females whose earnings fall into this income bracket tend to regularly purchase these RTE meals as they are inexpensive and most of the males, including women, find it easy to spend money on the ready to eat meals. With males and females eating RTE meals many times during a week including households that consume ready to eat products many times in a month, the price is a key driver that motivates both types of consumers to purchase such products. The price is also significant for gender showing a strong relationship as price tends to affect purchase decisions for males and females separately as per studies  (Lovell, 2010).

Convenience

The unique selling point or USP for any RTE product can be defined as convenience. The increased number of ready to eat meals and the growth in the number of quick-service restaurants and fast food outlets have primarily been due to Thai consumers finding it convenient to buy ready to eat meals as they save time and money. This is the driving factor for consumers’ purchase decisions for both males and females, especially the working class and females at homes as this brings ease for them. Busy professionals do not have the time to prepare the food at home; hence ready to eat meals come in handy for both types of consumers (Kotler, 2000).

The convenience that comes with the ready to eat products is shown to have a strong relationship with gender; however, the product attribute is not significant for gender when selecting and purchasing RTE foods. However, it is a factor that most contributes to both males and females buying such meals and opting to repurchase the same products. The gender factor is not significant for the less amount of time associated with the ready to eat products. Both males and females tend to prefer and buy RTE products for the ease and convenience of these food items.

Brand & Packaging

The visual appeal and packaging of any product will add to its positive perception of that product. Many customers often select products because of their packaging and attractive presentation. This is also considered a factor that adds to the brand image and brand value. For RTE products, the brand image is further enhanced by the handy and lightweight packaging that comes with most of the products (Parry, 2001).

Consumers tend to relate to particular brands mainly because of the unique taste and the packaging of the food item. Females usually prefer burgers and fries; hence, brands that sell such items would be significant for these brands. For males items such as fried chicken and pizza would be more preferable and therefore, consumption for such brands would be significant for makes or consumers who prefer such foods. Teenagers are also mostly attracted by the packaging and brand image of fast food items and RTE products. Hence the brand and packaging also play an important part in affecting the purchase and selection of RTE products for each consumer type. This is also reflected in the customer base for each particular brand as customer loyalty for a product would facilitate the repurchase of that product (Kotler, 2000).

Place

This is also an important factor that motivates the consumers to buy the products as the Thai males and females are attracted by quick-service restaurants and fast, good outlets near their homes and offices. The place is a significant marketing mix component that ensures effective product positioning. The construction of fast, good outlets and rate retail points across Thailand ensure that the product is available to the target market, adding to its value. Many males and females find it easy to buy RTE meals from nearby outlets as it caters to the attitudes and perceptions of many consumers looking for convenience (Parry, 2001).

As per the study conducted by Lovell (2010) to study the increasing ready eat meals consumption by consumers in Bangkok, Thailand’s economic growth and development had been primarily due to the consumer spending on food speedy food items and ready to eat meals. This growing trend amongst male and female consumers can be attributed to the earlier RTE product attributes, mainly taste, less preparation time, convenience, price, and packaging. Studies reveal that these product attributes form a strong relationship with repurchase decisions for these products by Thai consumers.

Statistical studies conducted by Lovell (2010) to analyse the relationship amongst the repurchasing and the product attributes for ready to eat meals suggest that taste is amongst the top independent factor for repurchase decisions while convenience, price and less preparation time follow close reflecting the strong impact of these product attributes on the buying behaviour of Thai consumers and their decision to repurchase such products. Marketers can use the statistical evidence from such researches to design products for each consumer segment or target market accordingly, and to betta er position, they’re ready to eat products.

According to Lovell (2010), the factor price holds prime significance when product sales and driving customer buy-ins are concerned. Thai males and females who belong to the working class are the primary drivers for selling such ready to eat meals, including teenagers who prefer fast food items on a large scale. Females and males from the working category do not have enough time to prepare meals. Generally, they harbour a perception that caters to quick ready to eat meals as they provide ease and convenience and affordability. For both male and female consumers in Thailand, price and convenience are important triggers of the repurchase of RTE meals.

The trend for female consumption patterns has largely been affected by the increase in females working at offices rather than staying at home confined to house chores. This transition of females moving from ”stay at home” ladies to ”working women” has changed most females’ eating habits infusing the pattern into their families, such as kids and spouses. Working women generally have less time to prepare meals at home; hence buying ready to eat meals for their family is more convenient for them. Also, household income dynamics and earning head statistics that have witnessed a change over the years with females also contributed to family income has facilitated the change in consumption patterns for Thai consumers. For households, parents influenced by the teenager’s inclination towards fast food items and RTE meals now include both males and females who contribute to RTE products’ increasing sales (Kotler, 2000).

The age bracket 20-45 shows the highest inclination towards consuming fast food items and ready to eat meals that the marketers can target for males and females. Further, with the growing Thai economy and household income, there will be an increasing demand for RTE foods by males and females. Still, the marketers must position specific RTE foods based on psychographic profiles exhibited by males and females to cater to both types of consumers.

Conclusion

The literature review assessed a diverse amount of literature about ready-to-eat products, their markets, particularly the Thai market. The review was also able to provide insight into how gender may play a role in consuming products. Various studies, such as Kotler (2002) and Parry (2001), will play a significant role in developing the current study’s methodology, presented in the following chapter. The issues, bias, and gaps found in most of the literature assessed are attempted to be filled with the current study, making it a significant contribution to this study field.

Chapter: Methodology

Introduction

The current study aims to highlight the consumer buying behaviour and consumption trends to a small extent when it comes to picking and purchasing different kinds of ready to eat meals for a small sample of Thai male and female consumers. The study’s purpose is to set preliminary research using a different approach to understanding gender roles in Thai consumers’ decision-making. The study focuses on a small set of male and female consumers’ preferences on the purchase and use of RTE products available in the Thai market. A gap pinpointed from the literature review found that most studies used only quantitative techniques to assess the preferences, purchasing behaviour, and the role of gender in the RTE product market to meet the research objectives highlighted in section 1.3. The current research uses the interpretive paradigm as its research approach, which influences the data collection, sampling, and data selection strategy.

Research Design and Objectives

The research involves detailed primary and secondary research methods and their application to collect the required information to facilitate productive and insightful inferences related to the research topic. The detailed methodology objectives for this research are hence highlighted below:

Tick To collect adequate data using qualitative methods from specifically in-depth interviews for evaluating the key drivers and marketing mix factors that contribute to the increasing demand for ready to eat products by Thai male and female consumers and that affect the decision-making process for the product.

Tick To collect sufficient qualitative data regarding the psychographic factors highlighted earlier, including the RTE product attributes about buying trends for Thai male and female consumers.

Tick To collect information from online and published sources regarding the relationship between the above highlighted physiographic/product-based and Gender variable for the Thai consumers.

Tick To collect relevant information to provide recommendations for product marketing and positioning derived through data analysis while highlighting additional research areas.

Based on the objectives outlined above, the most suitable research strategy will be based on the interpretive paradigm. Interpretivism is an approach to social science.

Qualitative Data Collection Methods

The chosen form of conducting the current study is using semi-structured in-depth interviews. This particular method allows a researcher to gather highly detailed information or knowledge from a subject that questionnaires and surveys cannot obtain. Polit and Beck (2006) defined interviews as a means of data collection that allows one person or the interviewer to ask questions to another person; the interviewee. Polit and Beck (2006) argue that interviews can be conducted either face-to-face or through a telephone. DiCicco-Bloom and Crabtree (2006) agree that interviews are the most commonly used data collection methods in a qualitative study. Hennink et al. (2010); Peters et al. (2015); and Whiting (2008) have noted that interviews are differentiated into different types, including structured, semi-structured, and unstructured. The current study’s chosen method is semi-structured interviews; these are in-depth interviews organized around a set of predetermined questions while other questions tend to emerge from the conversation. Peters et al. (2015) urged researchers to make semi-structured interviews a personal and intimate process. There are open, direct, verbal questions used to produce detailed narratives from the individual being interviewed. Melia (2000) argues that interviewers need to ensure control over the interview process by asking questions only and contributing very little to the process. On the other hand, Oates (2015) disagrees, and countries attempting to control the interview process results in disrespect of the participant’s role and only treat them as a means for producing data. The current study has developed predetermined questions (see appendix A) which will be asked to Thai consumers of RTE products.

Interviews will be conducted on Skype, a video and voice calling service used through the Internet. Oates (2015) argues that the Internet has allowed researchers an increased geographical reach for their studies as it gives them a wide range of participants to target. The concern that internet access may exclude participants or possible respondents is becoming less relevant as the use of the internet for work and social activities has increased since its inception. Denzin et al. (2011) have reported that many researchers now use Skype to access hard to reach participants over a geographically dispersed area at apparently no cost. Also, there is a positive advantage of both Skype users being safe and not invading each other’s private space. For this reason, participants of the current study were contacted and interviewed through Skype. Each of the interviews is to be conducted for 45 minutes.

Sampling Strategy

Due to the limitations of access to various individuals over Thailand’s entire geographical location, the smaller sample size was aimed for. This meant that a total sample size of 10 (N=10) was taken in which five respondents were female, and five were male. The sampling strategy used for this was purposeful random sampling. This strategy looks at a random sample but uses a small sample size as the potential sample is larger than can be handled. The purposeful random sampling strategy’s goal is credibility and not representativeness or the ability to generalize the study. As the research is looking to study male and female consumers in the Thai population, which is 67.01 million as of 2013, it would be impossible with the limited resources and time to even begin to sample a portion of this population. Therefore, Bangkok was chosen as a suitable area to cover with a colleague who advertised participation in the study. Participation in the current study was totally voluntary and the population was also manageable. There are 30,000 individuals close to the residence of the researcher. Therefore, access and selection to a mere ten individuals randomly were easy to arrange. The process aimed to reduce judgement within the traditional purposeful sampling strategy because the cases used were picked randomly without regard to the program’s outcome.

Qualitative Data Analysis Methods

After obtaining data from interviews, the data will be analyzed using thematic analysis. According to Flannery (2016), thematic analysis is considered a common form of analyzing qualitative data. Wright et al. (2011) explain that thematic analysis emphasises pinpointing, examining, recording, patterns or themes in a specific data set. The themes are recognized as a set of patterns throughout the data sets that are considered relevant to the research question’s specific situation. Through thematic analysis, a researcher can identify themes that become categories that are analyzed (Braun & Clarke 2006; Guest 2006; Onwuegbuzie & Leech 2007; Francis et al. 2010; Wright et al. 2011; Fugard & Potts 2015). Onwuegbuzie & Leech (2007); Francis et al. (2010) have provided the process of coding, which is used in six steps to establish a pattern to gain meaningful insights. The six phases are identified as follows;

  1. Understanding the data
  2. Developing initial code
  3. Searching and highlighting themes from codes
  4. Reviewing identified themes
  5. Giving themes a definition and name
  6. Producing the final report

The thematic analysis provides a great deal of emphasis on analyzing themes within an interview data set. Academics (Braun & Clarke 2006; Guest 2006; Onwuegbuzie & Leech 2007; Francis et al. 2010; Wright et al. 2011; Fugard & Potts 2015) have argued that thematic analysis is not just counting the phrases or words within a text; but it moves on to recognize different embedded ideas within the data.

Sources of Data Collection

The research uses sophisticated and comprehensive primary and secondary research techniques such as in-depth interviews and literature review, including case study analysis. This study’s primary technique included Skype interviews with ten Thai consumers of Ready-to-eat meals with a sample consisting of 5 males and five females. The data source for the qualitative information is, therefore, the in-depth interviews. The secondary research techniques include a literature review from online and published sources regarding the purchase trends and buying behaviour of Thai male and female consumers for RTE foods. At the same time, case studies were also reviewed, consisting of empirical studies conducted to gauge the relationship between gender and RTE consumption patterns. Therefore, the secondary data sources include online articles, blogs, journal publications, e-newspapers, research papers, and published sources such as books, magazine articles, Statistical reports, and newspapers.

Assumption of the Study

The research assumes that the readers of this study have a thorough understanding and knowledge of basic marketing concepts and principles such as the marketing mix elements of price, people, place and promotion including concepts related to consumer buying behaviour and the decision making process for the consumer along with the related factors that affect this purchase process. Further, the study assumes that the readers have sufficient knowledge of demographic factors such as age, gender, and education, including psychographic factors such as individual preferences, consumer attitudes towards the product, and perceptions that generally affect the purchase decision-making framework.

Conclusion

The current study’s research methodology takes on an interpretive paradigm which dictated the use and design of a qualitative research approach. A qualitative approach was to gain insight on consumer preference, a gap that was lacking in many studies assessed in the literature review. The qualitative research approach included semi-structured in-depth interviews with ten respondents based in Bangkok, Thailand. This included a division of respondents based on gender, five males and five females. The interview data will be analyzed using thematic analysis to identify and categorize themes found in the interview data. The thematic analysis for the current study uses a set of six steps.

Chapter 4: Analysis and Discussion

Introduction

This section provides an insight into the consumer buying behaviour and consumption trend for the male and female consumers in the Thai market for ready to eat meals. The section also analyses the impact and the effect of gender on the consumption of ready to eat meals in Thailand. The relationship between the various psychographics and product features with the gender category will be highlighted, providing an insight into the importance of the demographic variable gender for RTE foods in Thailand. The data collected will be analyzed to evaluate males and females’ individual eating habits, including the drivers that lure males and females into selecting and buying ready to eat foods.

Demographic Overview of Respondents

The study aimed to understand how gender plays a role in preference for purchasing RTE products in Thailand. However, factors other than gender play a role in persuading customers to opt-out for RTE products, rather than choosing traditional home-cooked meals. The interviewees included five males and five females; their other socio-economic characteristics are outlined in the table below.

Table 4.1– Interviewees’ Socio-economic Characteristics

Participant Age Profession Education Level Income Level
F1 43 years old Oncology Nurse Masters 20,000 Thai Baht
F2 25 years old Student Masters 10,000 Thai Baht
F3 38 years old Chambermaid Less than Secondary School 4,634 Thai Baht
F4 39 years old Teacher Masters 17,000 Thai Baht
F5 35 years old Accountant Bachelors 21,000 Thai Baht
M1 36 years old Product Analyst Masters 18,000 Thai Baht
M2 42 years old Postman Secondary School 9,600 Thai Baht
M3 32 years old Programmer Bachelors 16,500 Thai Baht
M4 32 years old Accountant Masters 22,000 Thai Baht
M5 29 years old Student Masters 15,000 Thai Baht

 

Based on respondents’ analysis, all interviewees were educated except for F3 who had not finished secondary school; M2 was educated, but not as educated as to the remaining eight interviewees. A majority of respondents (i.e. six in total) had obtained a Master’s degree in education which accounts for 18 years of schooling. Based on our sample, the average income of respondents is 15,000 Thai baht. According to the National Statistical Office in Thailand, the national monthly average income was 13,000 Thai Baht by July 2016. So the cumulative average of this study’s participants is well above the average. Also, 8 out of 10 participants were making above the national average income. It can be concluded that participants may be living above modest lifestyles which are comfortable.

All the females and males chosen as the sample for this research belonged to the professional class or office-going category. Most of the respondents or participants held technical education degrees and belonged to the high-middle class category. The respondents’ average age is 35.3 years old, which is between the predicted characteristics identified from the literature review. The average age of individuals who preferred RTE products’ use and consumption was between 25 years old and 40 years old.

Almost six out of ten of the respondents were married with kids, while the remaining participants were single. Prior permission regarding the confidentiality and the provision of the information provided by the participants was obtained from the interviewees as part of the research paper’s ethical requirements. The participants were informed that all information provided as part of the interview would be kept confidential and used only for the research’s defined purpose. Before asking them to respond to the interview, Permission was obtained from the participants stating to them clearly why the interview was being conducted and how their responses would benefit the particular study or research.

Thematic Analysis of Interviews

To understand the consumer attitude towards the consumption of ready to eat meals, it is important to analyze the marketing mix elements and their impact on the decision making for both males and females in the Thai RTE market. An analysis of how gender relates to each of these 4P elements or the product attributes will help in the insightful evaluation of such factors’ impact on the consumption and repurchase of the ready to eat meals. The study uses qualitative research techniques to find out the particular factors that contribute to the eating habits and consumption patterns of the Thai male and female consumers for which purpose data has been gathered through a questionnaire prepared to keep the research objectives in mind.

The intent is to evaluate the contribution of each of these product attributes to the purchase decisions for males and females, highlighting the hedonic and utilitarian values of each gender category in the process. To better understand the impact of the psychographic variables and the product attributes in the buying behaviour of the Thai consumers with regards to ready to eat meals reliable data needed to be gathered with a data sample that reflected equal representation of the males and females to gain a clear understanding of the buying behavioral characteristics of each gender type.

The second question of the interview was to obtain an understanding of the perception of the male and female Thai consumers with regards to the ready to eat meals and their particular advantages and benefits. This was also important as the question would help gain an insight into the consumers’ attitudes, specifically each gender category to find out their association level with the RTE food consumption and purchase. According to them, the males were asked what was the concept of ready to eat meals, and how did they envisage such products and their benefits to the community at large? Most male respondents replied by stating that the ready to eat meals were the typical fast food items and diner specialities available in the market. According to them, such RTE products were very beneficial for the community, primarily due to their convenience and impressive food variety.

While males had a considerable amount of understanding regarding the ready to eat meals, the female participants provided many in-depth responses stating that RTE foods were not only convenient, but they incorporated an entire gamut of products ranging from packaged meals, fast food products, diner specialities, frozen and chilled ready to eat meals. Further, all females said they thought that the RTE meals although not too nutritional compared to organic or home-cooked meals however very convenient, inexpensive and tasty providing the professional class with ease and the freedom to choose from a colossal variety.

The third question of the interview was concerned with the frequency of ready-to-eat meals by the males and females in Thailand to get a clear understanding of how often the males and females preferred to dine out, the order in or repurchase an RTE product. This question would also help provide an insight into the impact of gender on eating habits and consumption patterns. The males mostly responded by saying that they often ordered or dined out at fast food places and diners with their colleagues and their families with 60% of the male respondents saying that they usually ate many times during the month while 40% of the males stated that they ordered 2 to 3 times during the week.

The consumption pattern reflected somewhat similar patterns with females mostly ordering the food at the home or office rather than going out to dine compared to the male respondents. The frequency of consumption was almost the same with 3 out of 5 females stating that they ordered one to two times during the week because of their job routines while they usually ate out at diners with their family on weekends. More specifically, three of the females mentioned that they ate many times during the month with patterns reflecting more ordering of food rather than dining out while one of the female respondents (F3) said that they ate many times during the week while the remaining one (F2) of the respondents said that they ordered two or three times during the month.

The fourth question of the interview was to gain insight into the different types of ready to eat food items and fast food products that were preferred by the Thai male and female consumers. The question particularly focused on asking the participants regarding their favourite RTE meals and products they most frequently purchased. The responses received for this question would help provide an insight into the types of foods specific to each gender category and the motivation behind the repurchase decision for both males and females. While 4 out of 5 males stated that they preferred to go out and dine with colleagues during their lunch break mostly buying fast food products such as chicken burgers and fried chicken, pizza and local Thai specialities offered at quick-service restaurants, one of the males (M2) said that they preferred ordering rather than going out and enjoyed having rice and seafood along with packaged desserts.

The females’ responses were more focused on the wide variety of fast food items available in the market, and most of the responses were more particular about the aspect of health and nutrition when it came to the purchase of ready to eat food items and fast-food meals. At the same time, three out of five of the females said that they preferred to order their meals and that their favourite meal and pizza and salad along with fried chicken, two of the remaining females stated that they liked to order Thai specialities and local fast food products available in the market such as chicken burgers and fries mostly because their family preferred to have fast-food meals, especially their kids. The female responses also reflected the inclination towards frozen rate meals such as chicken, frozen pizza and vegetables that they often purchased. It was easier for them to include in the dinner for their family. Four of the females mentioned that they often purchased frozen, ready to eat meals.

The next question was related to the product features of the ready to eat meals and the fast-food items that affected the consumer buying behaviour and repurchase decisions. The respondents were asked to describe their favourite ready to eat a meal, and its particular characteristics motivated them to repurchase that product. Such a question would help identify specific product attributes and marketing mix elements that most contributed to the psychographic profiles for the male and females, thus positively impacting the buying behaviour and eating preferences of the Thai consumers with regards to ready to eat products.

While the males preferred to buy their favourite meals because of the nice taste and quick service delivery of the diner or fast food outlet, the females mostly preferred to order their favourite meals due to the food hygiene and quick service delivery. Most of the male respondents showed an inclination towards restaurant quality, great taste, and the nice ambience of the restaurant. The female responses were more focused on the price and promotion elements of the ready to eat meals. Most men preferred eating out at Thai seafood diners and fast food outlets while females preferred ordering pizza, salads and fast food items.

The interview’s next question was related to the particular reason for the males and females reasons of buying the fast food items and the ready to eat meals, especially with a focus on the product attributes and the features that enabled them to go for a repurchase. The question would help provide an insight into the factors of the marketing mix that would make the males and female consumers go for a repurchase regarding their favourite meals and fast food items. The males mostly responded by saying that the most important drivers for them and the purchase of ready to eat meals were the convenience, taste and affordable price of such fast food products and RTE meals. Almost three out of the five males said that taste and the price were key drivers for the repurchase of their favourite meals while 4 out of 5 men said that they preferred to eat ready to eat meals as they included convenience and ease. The responses from men reflected the fact that the males focused more on hedonic values such as taste and mood, including product variety and brand. Regarding the responses from females, four out of the five of the females said that they preferred to have meals that tasted good, but that was nutritional and a focus on hygiene and the specific quality of food delivered. While females mostly preferred their favourite meals because they were tasty and provided convenience, the males focused on restaurant type and price. The females’ main focus for repurchase was based on taste and utilitarian values such as service quality and hygiene. Most of the females stated that the food they usually ordered at the office or home included promotional features such as discount coupons and quick delivery. Hence, they preferred ordering from that place mostly.

The next question related to the interview was based on the particular spending patterns of the Thai male and female consumers and the average spending on Thai ready to eat products. This question was focused on gaining an insight into the importance of ready to eat meals for male and female consumers and their spending on these meals in particular. The males’ responses suggest that the males usually spent on average between 1500 to 2000 Thai baht on RTE meals in a month, which they considered was appropriate for their earnings. While 4 out of 5 males spending on ready to eat meals was between the highlighted bracket, the remaining male participant stated that they spent less than 1500 baht on the RTE meals.

The female spending pattern reveals similar trends regarding spending; however, the spending bracket for most of the females that are four out five of the females had spent between 1000-1500 Thai baht a month. The remaining female response was related to fewer than 1000 baht per month for RTE products…

The eighth question of the interview was to gain insight into the awareness of consumers regarding the impact of these ready to eat products on the health of the people in the community. The factors related to the nutritional and health-based aspects also tend to impact Thai consumers’ purchase decisions and eating habits. It has already been highlighted through studies conducted earlier for the same purpose that the Thai females are more conscious about their health and weight aspects when consuming ready to eat meals or fast food items compared to males which are reflected by their particular eating habits as females tend to order healthy items such as salads and grilled chicken meals or pizza. In contrast, men tend to dine out frequently and prefer fried chicken items and fried food products.

In response to this question, three out of five of the males responded by stating that the ready to eat meals that they bought were not too healthy in terms of nutrition and the type of nutrients that constituted the meal and that they were aware of the fact that the RTE meals they consumed were not too healthy. 2 out of 5 males replied by saying that they were not too aware of the nutritional elements and health aspects related to the Thai ready to eat meals. Further, they said that the increase in the amount of RTE meals being consumed was also leading to health problems in society and that the community should be more aware of the nutritional aspects of such food products.

The female responses revealed that the gender type of women was more conscious about the nutritional feasibility of fast food items and ready to eat meals. Hence, the food items that they mostly ordered for themselves included health and nutritional aspects. The extra care also reflected this when ordering food to ensure that food hygiene was maintained and ordered food rich in nutrients. While four out of five of the females said that they mostly ordered salads and vegetables and their meals instead of fries and fried items one of the female respondents (F4) said that they did not consider nutrition most of the time when consuming such meals. Most of the female respondents said that society needed to be aware of health issues related to such items’ consumption. It was the community’s responsibility to spread this awareness and choose foods that provide health benefits.

The interview’s next question was associated with the alternatives to the foods and the increase in the growth of such ready to eat meals, their producers and retailers. The question aimed to gain insight into the consumers’ perspective regarding the feasibility of RTE meals for the fast life and growing community in existing times. The male respondents mostly said that the need for the meals in retrospect of most Thai consumers’ busy life these days is reflected by the growing trend of such food products. There can be no alternative to RTE meals except hat the producers. The industry offers more healthy items including non-fat, vegetables and nutritional products in their product mix. All the males replied by saying that there was no alternative to RTE meals and that the industry would grow in the coming years since there was an increasing demand throughout Bangkok to eat meals and fast food items especially by the consumers belonging to the professional category.

The female responses were similar with four out of five females stating that health aspects often were overlooked when purchasing such meals, especially when busy life and routines are involved. They further stated that the increasing trend of teenagers and adults was reflective of the Thai RTE food industry’s growth and development in the coming years. One of the female respondents said that the alternative to RTE food could be only healthy foods, and as the community becomes more health-conscious, the industry might shift towards the production of healthy ready to eat meals.

The last question of the interview focused on the need for improvement in the Thai ready to eat products and the industry, emphasizing the need for enhancement in the current products being offered in the market. When asked if there was any particular need for the Thai ready to eat meals to be improved and how to improve them in case of ‘yes’, the males mostly replied by saying that the current products definitely needed improvement in terms of the use of healthier raw materials and preservatives or additives. There was an agreement amongst all the males concerning the need to improve the industry for ready to eat meals and more healthy items to prepare such meals.

The females also believed that the fast-food items needed to be improved because healthier raw materials such as vegetable oil and unsaturated fats including whole-wheat products to overcome the risks associated with trans fat leading to obesity and hypertension should be used for the production of RTE products. The frozen RTE meals and packaged snacks included many preservatives and chemical-based flavouring enhancers that harmed human health and needed to be reduced. The industry said they needed to be aware of this fact and try to produce RTE products that provide benefits for the community in terms of healthy consumption.

Conclusion

The in-depth interview responses of the sample population consisting of ten male and female consumers in total belonging to the professional class reflect the increased importance and relative need of the ready to eat meals in these Thai consumers’ lives. While most of the patterns and trends related to RTE consumption and purchase decision show similarities for both gender types, differences exist within the type of RTE food purchased and bought including the psychographic profiles that indicate a slightly hedonic pattern for males and utilitarian trend for female consumers. The busy routines and professional requirements of the male and female consumers have led to an increase in the consumption and growing demand for such products that provide both gender types with ease and convenience including the amazing taste that they are looking for.

Chapter 5: Conclusion and Recommendations

Introduction

This section of the research provides a summarized account of the results deciphered in the previous section to justify the research question. The conclusions related to the impact and effect of male and female food preference and eating patterns will be highlighted to contribute to the decision making process for ready to eat foods. Additional research areas will also be presented in this section along with an account of recommendations for better marketing and positioning of ready to eat foods based on the conclusions derived from the analysis of Thai male and female RTE foods consumption preferences and buying behaviour.

Conclusion & Discussion

The interview responses provide an insight into the factors associated with the characteristics of the ready to eat meals such as taste, convenience, brand, packaging and price, which have a strong impact on the purchase decisions of males and females. The way these factors affect the buying behaviour for both the male and female consumers in Thailand does not show stark differences for each gender type as the interview responses reveal that the product attributes do not influence the eating habits of males and females with varying patterns. For most of the product attributes both the males and females buying behaviour is affected in a similar pattern with both gender types reflecting an increased affinity towards the consumption and repurchase of ready to eat products.

An example of this is the attribute taste where both men and women prioritize taste when making purchase decisions for ready to eat meals. The responses show that both males and females are equally likely to consume different types of ready to eat products and fast food items regarding the frequency with which each gender category purchases, orders or dines in for RTE meals. As depicted by the interview responses, the males and females usually order food and consume Fast food items many times during the month with average spending between 1000-2000 Thai baht (Chitraporn, 2011).

The difference lies in that men usually go out to dine in restaurants more frequently than females as they believe it is inexpensive. There is more variety to choose from while females usually prefer to order at home or the office. The convenience factor is an element that is common to both gender type and thus is a key driver for the purchase and consumption of RTE products by both the male and female consumers in Thailand. Both males and females equally prioritize ease and convenience offered by such food products when ordering their food or deciding to repurchase fast food items or ready to eat meals (Lovell, 2010).

While females exhibit a psychographic profile characterized by utilitarian values such as food hygiene, price, healthy food, quick service delivery, males are dominated by a psychographic profile that reflects hedonic values such as brand, food variety, restaurant quality, mood and taste of the product. This is also evident because females usually prefer to purchase or order healthy food items such as salads and grilled chicken or pizza. In contrast, men prefer eating food products such as fried chicken, fried rice and Thai specialities with frequent dining in restaurants. The place is a factor given due to importance by both the gender types as males and females equally relate to the brand type and service quality while females are more influenced by the promotional factor such as discount coupons and premium offers (Kotler, 2000).

The empirical study conducted by Chitrapirn (2011) and analysed during the literature review; further provides evidence of the fact that similarities exist between the buying behaviour and consumption patterns for both the males and females reflecting that the demographic variable gender is not significant for RTE foods consumption as also evident from the current study. According to the current study, both males and females consume fast food and RTE meals with almost similar frequency. Simultaneously, their purchase decisions and eating preferences are equally affected by factors such as taste, brand, convenience, packaging, restaurant type and service quality. The study shows no relationship between gender and variables such as taste, price, product and place. Simultaneously, there is a relationship between gender and promotion with females being more influenced by discount coupons and premium offers which enable them to purchase RTE products more frequently than males. These conclusions were also drawn in the study conducted by  (Parry, 2001).

The patterns and trends revealed by the current study can be used by marketers to position better their ready to eat products with an emphasis on the psychographic. profiles exhibited by both the gender types as females tend to respond better to promotional aspects as compared to males hence the marketers can target the female consumers by offering ready to eat products with discount coupons. The growing concern for such RTE products’ health impact as pointed out by the male and female consumers participating in the interview needs to be considered. The marketers should concentrate on introducing healthy RTE foods in the market that positively impact human health. This is also vital for the growth and sustainability of the RTE industry as they have a key role in developing the quick service market and shaping up consumer attitudes towards ready to eat products (Lovell, 2010). Further research areas should focus on the detailed analysis of eating patterns and buying behaviour of each gender type for RTE products by using a larger data sample of Thai consumers focusing on different types of RTE products.

Limitation of the study

The research and study related to the impact and effect of gender on RTE foods consumption by Thai consumers are limited to the sample of ten consumers that consists of five males and five females that have been interviewed to find out the food preferences and buy behaviour of each gender category. The primary research data sample should be large enough, including the application of additional methods such as survey questionnaires to provide an accurate account of the gender differentiation for Thai consumers regarding RTE foods. Due to the limitations of resources, both time and financial that had led to the petite sample size. The secondary research is limited to existing studies that include a normal sample size to evaluate the significance of Gender on RTE foods consumption. Also, there were very limited academic literature studies to provide a true empirical picture of gender and consumption association of RTE foods.  The accuracy and reliability of the gathered data is also a limitation for this study.

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Appendix A

Interview Questionnaire

  • What are your occupation and particular business area of the profession?
  • According to you, what is the concept of Ready-to-eat meals, and how do they benefit the community?
  • How often do you purchase and consume ready to eat meals or your favourite RTE products?
  • What type of Ready to eat meals do you usually prefer to consume or repurchase?
  • Why do you purchase the frequently consumed readily to eat meal or RTE meal?
  • How much do you normally spend on the purchase and consumption of RTE products?
  • Please describe your favourite Ready to Eat product, and its particular attributes that you believe are key drivers for your purchase decision.
  • In your opinion, what you think is the impact of RTE products on human health? And what is the role of society in this regard?
  • Is there an alternate to RTE, given the increasingly fast environment we live in? Do you think this industry will grow further in the coming years?
  • How do you think these products and/or industry can be improved? Is there any need and room for improvements?
  • Bibliography

Appendix B

Female Interviewee Transcript

Interviewee 1- Female Participant

  • What are your occupation and particular business area of the profession?

I’m a clinical oncology nurse at a leading healthcare institute in Bangkok, and I’ve been working at the hospital for the last ten years. My professional area of expertise is the healthcare services that I’ve been affiliated with for a long time.

  • According to you, what is the concept of Ready-to-eat meals, and how do they benefit the community?

Ready to eat meals are those fast food products you get these days at places like Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and Burgers joints. I feel they come handy as they don’t need any cooking time, and people who got busy schedules can order their favourite meals without any hassle. Professionals like us who have busy routines have no time to prepare food at home most of the time, so ready to eat saves the day. Most of these fast food meals are also liked by my kids, and other children, so busy mothers can get their family tasty food in less time. I guess there are loads of different kinds of ready to eat meals in the market like frozen foods and other packaged meals by C.P Foods and S&P which is good since there is so much variety that you can choose from.

  • How often do you purchase and consume ready to eat meals or your favourite RTE products? It depends on my schedule as I usually buy takeaways from diners or fast food places when I don’t have enough time to prepare a meal at home. It also depends on the leisure time that I spend with my family and kids. I would say that it’s mostly several times in the month, especially on weekends as we order food at home or go out for dining with the kids. For my lunch at the hospital, I sometimes order RTE meals once or twice during the week. When I go to the supermarket for my groceries, I usually buy frozen foods for my family, along with some packaged items like snacks.
  • What type of Ready to eat meals do you usually prefer to consume or repurchase?

I usually like to eat pizza with salad as it is nutritional and keeps my weight in check, but sometimes when I’m having lunch at the clinic with the staff, I like to order sandwiches with fruit salads. My kids really like the chicken burgers that you get from places like McDonald’s with French fries, so I buy that often for the kids. As I said earlier, frozen meals like frozen pizzas, fried seafood, and packaged snacks are usually part of my purchase list when I go to the supermarket as my family likes to have frozen meals. I’m more particular about my diet, so I prefer less fattening food like salads and seafood.

  • Why do you purchase the frequently consumed readily to eat meal or RTE meal?

The main motivational factor for my purchase of ready to eat meals and fast food products is convenience and taste. The place that I order pizza from most of the times makes great pizza just the way I like it and because I’m their regular customer so they offer me discounts from time to time. With my busy schedule at the clinic, I prefer the RTE meals to be delivered quickly at my house or the clinic, and they should taste good. I think buying frozen RTE meals is also the same since they taste good and are hygienic, which is good for my family and me.

  • How much do you normally spend on the purchase and consumption of RTE products?

I usually spend around 1000 bahts on average I guess on my meals that I order for myself and the ones that I get for my family. The spending goes up to 1500 baht I believe sometimes because sometimes my family decides to go out and eat at a nice diner or I feel like spending some leisure time with my kids on weekends and having my favourite fast food meal. So I guess the average spending would be around a 1000-1500 baht convenient for me because of the earnings that I make. Ready to eat meals are really not that expensive nowadays.

  • Please describe your favourite Ready to Eat product, and its particular attributes that you believe are key drivers for your purchase decision.

I told you about the pizza parlour that makes delicious pizza that I often order because of its great taste. The taste is significant because the food you’re eating has to be good enough for you to enjoy your mealtime. So this place provides quality service taking extra care about food hygiene and quick delivery. They also provide me with discounts now and then as I am a patron there and my family also really likes the pizza from that place when we order at home. The good thing about that is that you get tasty and clean food delivered to your home in less time, so your family is happy, including yourself.

  • In your opinion, what you think is the impact of RTE products on human health? And what is the role of society in this regard?

The RTE products greatly impact the community since you see so many people being affected in different ways by these foods. Professionals like us who don’t usually have enough time to manage meals throughout the day find it easier to order a meal from the nearest RTE outlet and the stay at home mothers have a large variety to choose from for their kids and family so that the meals include both convenience and delicious food which brings peace of mind that is good for health. I guess the ready to eat meals positively impact society because they bring ease, taste, and affordability. The impact on health is obviously a consideration, but I tend to choose my meals appropriately and the consumers, especially kids. They should have the fast-food items in moderation, and adults should pick a healthier option instead of fattening products.

  • Is there an alternate to RTE, given the increasingly fast environment we live in? Do you think this industry will grow further in the coming years?

Alternative to RTE? Well, I can’t really say if there can be an appropriate substitute for the meals they offer in fast food outlets and Rte diners. The existing products are fine, and I guess what is needed is for the RTE industry to include healthier forms of the product as I guess they can be nice alternatives to the current products in the market. There are so many people out there who find it really easy and convenient to buy Rte meals and save time, so there is a growing demand for such foods in the market. I guess the industry will continue to grow in the future and keep making nice products that are tasty and healthy.

  • How do you think these products and/or industry can be improved? Is there any need and room for improvements?

Yes, of course. There is room for improvement in the existing ready to eat products as they contain fattening stuff, especially the fast-food items like chicken burgers and fried food items. They can cause obesity and hypertension, which is why I said earlier that these meals must be consumed in moderation while selecting healthier foods. The industry that makes such food items should notice this aspect concerning human health and should therefore introduce products in the market that include nutritional values like fewer oils and fried foods with more grilled food items, including vegetables and fewer additives.

Appendix C

Male Interviewee Transcript

 

Interviewee 2- Male Participant

  • What are your occupation and particular business area of the profession?

I work at an Electronics Engineering firm as a Product Analyst. My professional business area is Engineering Management, and I’ve been working here since 2011.

  • According to you, what is the concept of Ready-to-eat meals, and how do they benefit the community?

Ready to eat meals are the quick precooked foods that save you time and inconvenience. Ready to eat meals are pretty popular these days in Bangkok since you see a fast food place or a diner at every corner. Most of these meals taste really nice, and I find them really good because they make my lunch breaks enjoyable. My family uses these ready to eat products most often and all my family members like the taste and convenience that these products offer. These days loads of people buy fast food and frozen RTE products as they are mostly available from almost everywhere in Bangkok.

I can say they do have benefits for the community because my colleagues are often complaining about the problems they have with meals management at home sometimes due to less time. Hence, most of them order meals at the office during lunch as it is easier for them to order food than to wait at homes for their lunches to be prepared for office take-away. Then you get these frozen products that you can store at home in the refrigerator and heat up when you’re hungry so that also is really beneficial as men who do not know how to cook can just heat the meal and eat. They aren’t that expensive as well I guess at least not for the professionals compared to their benefits.

  • How often do you purchase and consume ready to eat meals or your favourite RTE products?

Considering the number of orders that I do for my lunch at the office and my dining with the family I would have to say many times during the week as I often order meals during the week in the office and at home sometimes during the weekdays. I usually dine out with my family during the weekend so that would be quite often during the month. To be exact, I consume ready for meals at least two to three times during the week and then on weekends with my family when I go out to dine and spend time with my two children.

  • What type of Ready to eat meals do you usually prefer to consume or repurchase?

I usually like to have fried chicken and eat Thai specialities such as fried rice and fish or shrimps that they serve at nice dinners. My family thinks these specialities are a bit expensive, but they taste perfect, and I enjoy every time I go out to eat Thai RTE with my family at quick-service restaurants. When I’m ordering food at the office with my colleagues during lunchtime, I have grilled chicken and cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets that are also my favourite because they taste really nice. I don’t eat a lot of frozen ready to eat products, but chilled RTE such as cold sandwiches and flavoured desserts are really good.

  • Why do you purchase the frequently consumed readily to eat meal or RTE meal?

The ready to eat the meal that I frequently order at the office is the fried chicken and Burger that I really like because the fast food place makes it really nice and delivers it quickly, so I usually eat that when I’m with my colleagues at the workplace. I believe taste and convenience, including price, are important drivers that make me repurchase. My family and I usually dine at this local diner that offers really delicious Thai specialities that are really tasty. Personally, I think they are not that expensive. The place has a nice ambience, and the restaurant offers quick service, so we don’t have to wait for our order to be served for too long.

  • How much do you normally spend on the purchase and consumption of RTE products?

I tend to order frequently because of my job role and my routine which has me usually consuming ready to eat meals at the office for my lunch, so I mostly spend around 1500 to 2000 Thai baht on the meals and the dining with my family. That is probably approximate because sometimes my family would ask me to take them to a pizza place or some nice diner, so it depends on the requirements or a particular situation. Still, I guess that would be the average spending for me somewhere around 1500 to 2000 baht.

  • Please describe your favourite Ready to Eat product, and its particular attributes that you believe are key drivers for your purchase decision.

When I have the food at my office, I really like to order the fried chicken and grilled chicken cheeseburger from the fast food place near our office. I really enjoy the food because the chicken tastes really nice and my colleagues like it too. Besides they provide us with special meal offers that are lucrative and have reasonable costs. The best thing about ordering from this place is that it provides amazing food that I like at the appropriate price with quick delivery service so for me that’s very convenient.

  • In your opinion, what you think is the impact of RTE products on human health? And what is the role of society in this regard?

The ready to eat products is beneficial for the community because they provide many benefits to the consumers, which can be seen by the growing trend of the Thai people purchasing and consuming such products. However, they have some negative effects on human health as well, which can be seen from the incidents of people suffering from coronary diseases and obesity due to the excessive consumption of such foods. These foods also do not have the essential nutrients you can get from organic forms of other food items and cooked meals. So I guess the consumption of RTE meals does entail some health implications, and the society needs to be aware of it. People should be more careful when selecting RTE products and select healthier meals that can be consumed in appropriate quantities.

  • Is there an alternate to RTE, given the increasingly fast environment we live in? Do you think this industry will grow further in the coming years?

Well, I don’t believe there can be alternatives to the ready to eat meals as the people today need such products to bring convenience to their lives while enjoying tasty meals while on the go. Food is a necessity, and I guess RTE foods are the requirements for today’s busy and fast life, especially for people who are working at offices or in other fields. If they start making healthy and nutritional products, that would be a nice thing as people today are too busy to consider health aspects of such foods, but the awareness must be there, and the industry should make healthy food items. There are huge prospects for the industry I guess for the future as RTE’s demand is increasing. People will continue to purchase and consume such fast food products due to the taste, convenience, and large variety so the industry will grow.

  • How do you think these products and/or industry can be improved? Is there any need and room for improvements?

There is certainly room for improvement in the existing ready to products as they contain too much fat substance that is not good for the health. Most of the frozen and packaged RTE products include preservatives that can also prove harmful as I’ve heard from people and other sources. Therefore, the manufacturers of such food items must pay attention to these aspects and introduce healthier options in the market. They should include products with less fat content and nutrient-rich raw materials that positively impact human health. They should also try to limit preservatives and flavour enhancers so that the health is not affected.

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