In this research, the authors define and measure daily, weekly, and holiday patterns in consumers’ food consumption behaviors. The authors believe that understanding these behaviors can help improve the efficacy of nutritional guidelines and tackle food consumption–related problems, such as obesity. The authors describe daily bracketing behavior as the daily tendency to pursue food consumption in separate, daily units of time. Week-part bracketing behavior is the weekly tendency to consume differently (some people consume more, some less) on weekends versus weekdays. Holiday bracketing is described as the tendency to consume differently on holidays versus on nonholidays, with a larger increase on eating (e.g., Christmas Day) than on civic (e.g., Veterans Day) and mixed (e.g., Memorial Day) holidays.
The authors test their bracketing behavior predictions using the 1998–1999 editions of the Eating Trends Survey conducted by The NPD group, a leading market information company. Households participate in this annual two-week survey by keeping daily diaries that report the foods eaten by all members of the household. Using a proprietary formula, NPD then calculates the caloric content of all reported food items. For their analyses, the authors aggregated the caloric content data up to the three daily meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) for all 601 panelists for each day.
To demonstrate daily bracketing, the authors report a stronger balancing of highs and lows in meal-level intake when meals are from the same day (e.g., today’s breakfast’s impact on today’s lunch) rather than when they are from adjacent days (e.g., yesterday’s dinner’s impact on today’s breakfast). More than 84% of the panelists showed such daily bracketing. To demonstrate week-part bracketing, the authors report significant meal-level differences in weekday versus weekend intake. For example, 12.3% of the panelists had larger weekend meals, adding to a total increase of 411 calories. Conversely, 9% of the panelists had smaller weekend meals, adding to a total decrease of 399 calories. Other panelists showed a weekend increase for some meals and decrease for others. For demonstrating holiday bracketing, in addition to reporting meal-level differences between holiday versus nonholiday intake, the authors report a significant increase in intake on eating holidays (340 calories), which is larger than the increases on mixed (133 calories) and civic (49 calories) holidays. In addition, significant weekend increases were observed for panelists in the 25–35 age group and 30-plus body mass index group, among others. However, the panelists were considerably similar in their daily and holiday bracketing tendencies.
Although daily bracketing seems to be strongly entrenched, the authors propose that flexible multiday recommendations (e.g., 16,800 calories/week) may improve the efficacy of dietary guidelines, at least for people who find it difficult to adhere to daily recommendations. The authors suggest that policy makers should consider separate recommendations for weekdays, weekends, and eating holidays, and perhaps these can be tailored for different age and BMI groups. Helping consumers use bracketing behaviors to better manage their food consumption is the ultimate goal, and it is hoped that this research will spur others to work in this area.
Adwait Khare (PhD, University of Pittsburgh) is Assistant Professor of Marketing at Quinnipiac University. His research interests are in understanding patterns in consumption behaviors, word-of-mouth behavior, effects of self-identities on product preference, and effects of decision contexts on product preference. He has published papers in Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Retailing.
J. Jeffrey Inman is Associate Dean for Research and Faculty and Albert Wesley Frey Professor of Marketing in the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests include shopper marketing, in-store decision making, and eating behaviors. He is on the editorial board of Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, Marketing Science, Journal of Consumer Psychology, International Journal of Marketing Research, and Journal of Retailing. He is also an associate editor at Journal of Marketing Research and International Journal of Marketing Research. Before entering academia, he worked at General Motors as a production supervisor and Texas Instruments Inc. as a semiconductor distribution manager.
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2009
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