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Purpose- The study focuses on identifying working women’s attitudes towards the consumption of fast food in Matara district, and to explore the impact of demographic characteristics of age, income and employment status towards the attitudes of fast food consumption.
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Methodology-Five possible areas of attitude generation for fast food; perceived taste, perceived quality, perceived nutrition value, perceived convenience and perceived price were analyzed using a structured questionnaire with a sample of 177 members. The study tested five hypotheses related to these five areas and the impact of three demographic variables; age, disposable income and employment status on the consumption act of fast food.
Keywords- Fast Food, Women, Attitudes, Matara District
Social and psychological changes such as looking for more freedom or independence and identity, concern for physical body image and active lifestyles of young and adult generations have a significant influence over the nutrition intake and food choices (Story et al-year not available). Fast food can be identified as one of those main new food choices of people. Among various types of food, fast food plays a major role today. Fast Food can be defined as “easily prepared processed food served in snack bars and restaurants as a quick meal or to be taken away” (Oxford Dictionary, 27-02-2012). Rapid establishment of fast food restaurants in all over the country is an evidence for the popularity of fast food among Sri Lankans. Not only in urban areas, but also in rural areas, we can see number of fast food restaurants today and the places where fast food is served have become widen. “They are now served at restaurants, stadiums, airports, zoos, schools and universities, on cruise ships, trains and aero planes, at supermarkets, petrol stations and even in hospital cafeterias” (Schlosser, 2001).
Although fast food is very popular among people, majority of their attitudes towards fast food are ambiguous. Most people believe that they have to face various ailments due to the changes of their new food habits. Increasing body weight, insulin level and body fat are the major effects of this changing dietary choices and finally it leads to diseases like diabetic, obesity, gastritis and high cholesterol.Even though people see and experience these bad effects of fast food, they still consume them. “Hundreds of millions of people buy fast food every day without giving it much thought, unaware of the subtle and not so subtle ramifications of their purchases. They rarely consider where this food came from, how it was made, what it is doing to the community around them. As the old saying goes: You are what you eat” (Schlosser 2001).
Fast food is fairly a new food trend in a developing country like Sri Lanka. Although satisfactory amount of research studies for fast food can be found in international arena, the contribution from Sri Lankan context is very poor. As long as attitudes of people varied based on different cultural, economical and sociological factors, the identified attitudes towards fast food need to be assed in the Sri Lankan context. Matara district was the more specific demographic area selected by the author for his study. Matara is the South end of the Island which consits of people from multi religions and it is a coastal area that was influenced by Portugese, Dutch and British people at the colonial era. Even though Matara is an urban area, still its not urbanized as metropolitan areas of the country like Colombo and Kandy. Based on these variations, the present study tries to identify the attitude of working women towards the fast food consumtion in Matara district.
In making the food decision, women play a major role in the family. They spend their time and income to focus on the food security. (Brown et al, 1995). In general, mothers are the major decision makers of food in a family. This is absolutely true in the Sri Lankan context and mothers take decisions on factors such as “which food are rich with nutrition, which food is compatible with their budgets” (Seale et al,), which foods can be easily prepared, etc. Therefore the author has focused the study on the women’s attitude since they are the major influencers of the food choice of a family. Women were further narrowed down in to working women and women who live in Matara district. Unlike house wives, working women may have some rational to justify their decision in consuming fast food because of their workaholic nature. Therefore attitude of working women were assessed and investigated. Normally, it is accepted that women worry about their body image than males. Although fast food leads to obesity, women still consume it. Those social issues combined with fast food consumption are analyzed through this research study to identify the Matara district working women’s real attitude towards fast food consumption.
Investigation of related literature towards the research topic is of vital importance in identifying the present findings related to the topic.
Human behavior is governed by an integrated system which consists of economic, biological, demographical, socio-psychological and cultural factors. Although the influence of these factors varies from society to society, they contribute to determine the changes of consumption patterns as well as the nutritional needs of people (Renata Januszewska-book).
Those factors can be individually or collectively affected in formation of attitudes in human mind as well. Attitudes are basically our predispositions towards things. According to Severin and Tankard, an attitude indicates “whether or not we like something” (2001, xx). Therefore attitudes towards consumption of fast food are the positive or negative emotional feelings regarding the consumption action.
Those positive and negative emotions towards consumption of fast food can be based on two arguments of nutrition professionals. The negative argument towards fast food was consumption of fast food leads to the obesity epidemic. On the other hand the nutrition professionals argue that fast food is a part of a healthy diet (Ebbeling, 2004). In addition, a research study titled, [C]onsumer perception about fast food in India: an exploratory study, has found that when eating at fast food restaurants, 24% of Indians use service quality as a decision making criteria while 22% use health related aspects of food (Goyal et al, 2007). Binkley J.K. has also investigated the health related issues of fast food. In his research, titled ‘[T]he Effect of Demographic, Economic, and Nutrition Factors on the Frequency of Food Away From Home” has discovered that fast food consumption is lower among the nutrition oriented consumers (2005).
Based on those different viewpoints, attitudes towards consumption act of fast food can be varied among people from different backgrounds.
The increased food consumption is one of the new trends in today’s society that leads to the increase in caloric intake by people. In American culture, increase in dependence on food eaten away from home is the one of the largest change in the food habits in recent decades (Binkley, 2005). The main encouragement behind this increased food away from home is the rapid development in the fast food industry. “Fast food restaurants are the chain restaurants that have two or more of the following characteristics: expedited food service, takeout business, limited or no wait staff, and payment tendered prior to receiving food.” (Block et al. 2004). However these criteria are subjective and researchers have defined or interpret fast food or fast food restaurants differently in various situations though the basic idea remains static.
In identifying adolescents’ view on fast food, Mary Story and Michael D. Resnick have identified in their research of [A]dolescents’ Views on Food and Nutrition, the primary reason of consuming Junk Food by students is its taste. According to them, fast food is a sub category of Junk Food. They have further found that people like and eat those food even though they are aware of its negative consequences such as getting fat, acne, bad mood, bad health, poor nutrition, laziness, cavities and getting sick due to three reasons. They are lack of time, lack of discipline and lack of a sense of urgency.
Even in Anita Goyal and N.P. Singh’s (2007) research study, titled “[C]onsumer perception about fast food in India: an exploratory study”, it has been stated that people are aware that consumption of fast food leads to bad side effects like high calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt. However they keep eating fast food because fast food is convenient and economical to busy life styles.
The existing literature indicates that majority of people have a positive attitude towards the taste of fast food. However people are aware of its bad side effects that give a negative feel even though they consume it.
In addition to the taste, busy lifestyles of parents in the families have lead to use fast food due to its favorable features of quick service, convenience and relative inexpensiveness of prices in comparing to traditional table service restaurants (Luce, 2011). Most fast food restaurants are capitalized on the factor of efficient service. To achieve this efficient service, those organizations provide limited and simple menus that can be cooked and served in assembly line fashion. The latest development of the convenience factor of fast food is, “family now can simply drive through, pick up its order and eat it while driving to the next” (Ritzer ).
“Food prices play an important role in food selection” (Popkin B.M, 2001). However, even in some periods of recessions, fast food sellers have reported an increase in profits. Best example is the opening new outlets and broadening food and beverage range by McDonalds in the last recessionary period (Fowles at el, 2011). This indicates that current market prices of fast foods are affordable by people and the convenience factor of fast food has positively affected to the consumers of fast food regarding their consumption action.
When comparing with other groups of people, women are the group that highly bothered about their body weight. Therefore it can be identified that the contribution of fast food towards body weight can affect to the attitudes towards fast food of women. There is a positive relationship between fast food eating and obesity among US women. Energy intake and percentage of energy from fat also positively associated with fast food eating (Jeffery et al, 1998). This fact convince that even though consumption of fast food badly affect to the body image, people, especially women still continue the consumption act of fast food.
Sometimes it can be thought that proximity to fast food restaurants may be an influential factor in increasing the body weight. Within a population of urban low-income preschoolers, it has been found that overweight was not associated with proximity to fast food restaurants (Burdette et al, 2004).This indicate that proximity is not an influential factor towards the fast food consumption decision.
Emotional eating, “which is the consumption of food in response to negative emotions rather than hunger” is another concept of food consumption (Fowles et al, 2011, p 633). He further explains that emotional eating contributes to increase the frequency of food away home and hence emotional eating influence to consumption of fast food.
In Biljana Juric and Anthony Worsley’s (year??) research of [C]onsumers’ attitudes towards imported food products, it indicates that consumer’s perceptions are varied based on their inherent qualities and product related factors. The product related factors include, “the level of economic development of the exporting country and the similarity of the culture of the exporting country”. The consumer factors that affect to the perception of importing food products include Ethnocentrism, consumers’ interest in foreign cultures, income, education, age and sex. Since fast food industry is dominating by multinational giants like McDonalds, KFC, the consumers attitudes towards fast food are shaped by those products related and consumer related factors.
Consumption of fast food also depends on the demographic factors. Age is the main predictor of fast food consumption and increasing age caused to decrease in fast food consumption
The emergence of new forms of food in Sri Lankan culture has led to the transformation of traditional dietary intake pattern of people. Fast food is one of the main new food trends in Sri Lanka today. It has already conquered the Sri Lankan food and beverage market. Not only in urban areas, but also in rural areas, now we can find several numbers of fast food restaurants.
Day by day, new fast food sellers enter into the market with some innovations and expansions to their product lines. This is an indication of the popularity of fast food in the Sri Lankan culture. This may be due to several favorable features of fast food such as taste, ease of use, smell, texture, convenience, etc.
Though people consume fast food, the society sees lot of bad outcomes of fast food. One issue is the increasing trend of some diseases such as diabetes and high cholesterol. This indicates the new changes of people’s dietary choices has badly affected to their health. Obesity is the other bad effect of the new food habits of people.
Therefore in spite of the expansion of fast food restaurants all over the country, on the surface, it can be identified that people do not have a favorable attitude towards fast food due to above mentioned bad outcomes of fast food. This situation indicates that people consume fast food because they do not have any other proper alternative solution for their food decision. This situation has led to a state of unclearness of people’s attitude towards fast food consumption. Though people know bad effects of fast food, they still consume it. This issue was identified by the author and he tried to identify the real attitude towards fast food. It can be a favorable, positive attitude or unfavorable, negative attitude.
When talking about food, women are the most influencing character in Sri Lankan family; especially mother or the wife of the family. Since women’s traditional role has changed in this fast phased society, their attitudes and their influence over the food and food decision has also been changed. This change was investigated by the author limiting the research study only to working women in Matara district.
“People like eating out or purchase fast food because it is cheap, convenient, tasty and above all heavily promoted. Evolution of eating out and food away from home to an extent of food revolution is an outcome of changing food and eating habits of the consumers towards convenience in the present time-starved societies, where both husband and wife are working” (Anand. 2011, p.182). Although these favorable features of fast food have led to increase in consumption, the real attitude towards fast food consumption is needed to be identified. The author has selected five areas that affect in generation of attitudes related to the fast food consumption: perceived taste, perceived quality, perceived nutrition value, perceived convenience and perceived price to identify the influence towards the consumption act of fast food and two demographic variables were used as controlling variables: age and disposable income against independent variables to assess the impact on the dependent variable.
Scholars have defined or interpreted fast food restaurants differently in various occasions based on diverse criteria. The author has identified below mentioned food outlets as fast food outlets based on following characteristics that were driven from research articles: “expedited food service, limited or no waiter staff, payment tendered prior to receiving food” (Block et al, 2004,p 212) and “provide facilities to customers to consume their meals on site” (Burdler et al, 2004) or take way. Since there are no multinational Fast Food outlet chains such as KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds available in Matara area, the author has identified 6 dominating Sri Lnakan fast food outlets in Matara area. They were Perera & Sons, Amba Sewana, Mayura, Samanmal, DKW and the fast food outlet available at Keels Super, super market outlet.
Conceptual framework- Operationalization of variables
The conceptual framework of research study consists of five independent variables , namely: perceived taste, perceived quality, perceived nutrition value, perceived convenience and perceived price and two controlling variables, namely: income and age.
Colour (Grunert, 2005).
Visible fat content
Cues related to product origin
Quality labels (Grunert, 2005)
reduced effort-saving of time, physical energy, or of mental energy (Scholderer et al, 2004)
available at nearby locations (Jekanowski et al, 2001)
transport costs (Mitchell, 2008)
Not expensive (Steptoe et al, 1995)
Good value for money
Perceived nutrition value
Contains balanced vitamins and minerals
Keeps me healthy
Contains balanced nutrition
Is good for my skin/teeth/hair/nails etc (Steptoe et al, 1995)
Contains no additives
Contains natural ingredients
Contains no artificial ingredients
In Demory-Luce’s(2005) research of fast food in relation to children and adolescents, he has stated that fast food consumtion of both children and adolescents has an increasing trend. Anita Goyal and N.P. Singh (2007) studied the consumer perception towards fast food in Indian context. They discovered there wasn’t any considerable variation in perceptions of consumer’s from different age levels towards fast food in India. As long as Sri Lankan and India have pretty much similar socio demographic and cultural characteristics, this finding contributed to the development of H1 hypothesis.
H1: Age does not exerts a significant impact over the attitude towards consumption of fast food in Sri Lankan working women
Darmon et al. (2002) analyzed the cost as a constraint for adverse effect for Food Selection and Nutrient Density. They found that food budgets of families have a direct influence over the selection of food and it finally leads to the diet quality of the family. Disposable income is an important factor that influence in purchasing decisions. Similar to other goods and services, disposable income determines the access to fast food too (Mohr et al, 2007). Based on these findings, the H2 hypothesis was developed to identify the impact of income of respondents over the attitude towards the fast food consumption.
H2: Income exerts a significant impact over the attitude towards consumption of fast food of working women in Sri Lanka
Drichoutis and Lazaridis (2008) state that people who have a good education is reluctant to pay for convenience or tatste in food selection but willing to pay more for healthy foods. As long as level of education directly contributes to the status of employment of people, H3 hypothesis was tested to identify the impact of employment status over the attitude towards fast food consumption.
H3: Employment Status exerts a significant impact over the attitude towards consumption of fast food of working women in Sri Lanka
The sample of the research study consisted of 177 working women (Table 1) and these subjects were selected from Matara district. The only criterion that was based in when selecting women was whether they are employed and they reside in Matra district at the moment of data collection.Factors such as age, geographic location within Matara district were out of concern when selecting sample units because the author wanted to identify the women attitudes in Matara district without limiting women to a specific age group and geographical location within Matara district.
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Convenience samples were drawn from Matara district to collect data. The author defines convenience sampling based on the ease of reach to sample units. The data were collected from government organizations, private organizations and fast food restaurants at the Matara district. The government organizations was Urban Counsil-Matara, Bank of Ceylon-Bazar Branch, District Secretariat Office-Thihagoda,Aththudawa Maha Vidyalaya and Ceylon Electricity Board-Matara. Private organizations were Sampath Bank-Matara, Dean Brothers (pvt) Ltd, Amila Studio. From these Government and private organizations, data were collected from their employees. In addition, data were collected from the customers who visited Cargills Food City, Amba Sewana Bakers, Perera and Sons bakers and Mayura Restaurant in Matara town.
Supervisor-administered structured questionnaires were distributed among sample units with a request of fill them on the spot.
The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 16 was used as the data analysis tool of this research study. The reliability of data was analyzed as the initial step of data analysis. A Factor Analysis was conducted to identify the most important factors underlying in the identified attitudes towards the consumption of fast food and to determine the composition of the attitude towards the fast food consumption. Further analysis was carried out using statistical techniques of One Way Anova, Means and Standard Deviation to test the hypothesis and analyze the variables of attitude towards consumption of fast food.
The reliability analysis of collected data gives a Cronbach’s Alpha value of 0.705.This value indicates that selected data are reliable for further analysis. The research sample consists of working women in Matara district, Sri Lanka. The sample composition based on the demographic factors of age, income and employment status are shown in table 2.
The factorability of data set was analysed using the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin(KMO) Measure of Sampling Adequecy and Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity.The corrosponding value for KMO was 0.801 and the value of Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity was significant at 2.82, p<0.001 . These values indicate that this data set can be confidently used for a Factor Analysis excercise.
The influence of demographic factors over the consumption of fast food
A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was calculated on participants’ ratings of attitudes towards consumption of fast food based on the demographic factors of age, income and employment status.
Effect of age towards attitude towards fast food
It was found that the attitude towards Perceived taste of fast food is significantly different, p=0.007,F(2,174 )=5.065,based on the age of the women. Young adult women considered Perceived taste of fast food is more important (M=3.4020, SD=0.78911) than the young women (M=3.2890, SD=0.79064) or adult women (M=2.9133, SD=0.86384).
Perceived Price of fast food is the other factor that significantly varied, p=0.009, F(2,174)=4.810 based on the age of women. Young women considers the fast food prices more (M=2.7377, SD=0.74003) than young adults (M=2.5255, SD=0.74077) or adult women (M= 2.2939, SD=0.89731)
Other than the perceived taste and perceived price, other attitudes towards consumption of fast food under the consideration of the research study: perceived quality (p=0.576), perceived convenience (p=0.461) and perceived nutrition value (p=0.540) of fast food were not significantly varied based on the age of women. The age was not a significant factor in considering these attitudes in consuming fast food by working women in Matara district.
and Perceived Price (r= 0.009) of fast food is significantly different among the women in different age levels.; Perceived Quality, Perceived Convenience and Perceived Price towards consumption of fast food.
Effect of employment status
Perceived quality of fast food consumption is significantly different, p=0.002, F(3,173)=5.208 among women based on their employment status. The women who are self employed (M=3.5397,SD=0.71706) considers the fast food quality more than the operational (M=2.6911, SD=0.58274), clerical(M=3.0404, SD=0.74947) and management level(M=3.1685,SD=0.60064) working women. However, employment status of women did not give any significant variation in to attitudes towards perceived Taste (p=0.233), Perceived Convenience (p=0.453), Perceived Price (p=0.338) and Perceived Nutrition Value (p=0.146).
Effects of income
Women’s attitudes towards fast food consumption did not have any significant relationship with their income. Income was not a significant demographic factor in determining the fast food consumption among women in Matara district. Perceived taste (p=0.209), Perceived quality (p=0.937), Perceived Convenience(p=0.705), Perceived Price(p=0.087) and Perceived Nutrition Value(p=0.577).
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