Pleasure and nutrient considerations in the household demand for food
DeVito, Aleja Jane Haynie
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When considering consumer demand for food, there are two important components: pleasure and nutrient content. It has been recognized that households consume food for the pleasure obtained through taste, odor, and appearance of the food. With increasing awareness about proper nutrition and good health, a second element in consumer demand is added. This study was designed to answer the question: In what ways do pleasure and nutrient content affect consumer food demand? Since the components associated with pleasure and nutrient content of food are somewhat indistinguishable from utility, the assumption that they are linearly related to utility allows household production theory to be used. From household production theory, demand functions for food items and nutrient content can be deduced. Model variables include individual food quantities, prices associated with the food items, nutrients available, shadow prices associated with the nutrients, average age of the population, and expenditures on non-food items. Ideally, a full model which incorporates both pleasure and nutrient content should be compared to more simplified sub-models. The two sub-models developed in this study provide empirical evidence supporting the idea that both pleasure and nutrient content of food are important in household consumption. Since estimation of a full model was beyond the scope of this study, only the results of the two sub-models were obtained. The overall results of both models were strong in some areas and weak in others. Of the four demand properties discussed, the "pleasure" sub model did a reasonable job in terms of logical and significant cross-price, income, and average age effects. The strong points of the "nutrient" sub-model were represented in the own-price and income effects. The research presents evidence that effective food policy must take into account both nutrient and pleasure considerations in household food choice decisions. The results of this study represent an important first step in developing a comprehensive framework and reliable estimates of the household demand for food.