Factors That Influence
Food choices are influenced by many factors, age, gender,
friends, family, cultural background and where we live.
Although the main purpose of food is to nourish the body, food
means far more than that to many people. It can represent much
of who and what we are. People bond and foster relationships
around the dinner table and at celebrations with special meals
and foods, such as birthday cake. Some people express their
creative side by serving dinner guests, as well as expressing
their awareness and appreciation for others. Some people also
use food to help them cope with stress by overeating or
depriving themselves. Food may also be used as a reward for
accomplishing a specific goal. Consequently, what people eat
can reveal much about who they are socially, politically and
Factors influencing food preferences include:
- Taste, texture and appearance.
- Economics - The cost of food affects what we eat.
- Our early experiences with food - Food
preferences begin early in life and change as we are exposed
to new people and places. As children, our choices were in
the hands of our parents. However, as we get older, our
experiences with new people and places increase, thereby
broadening our food preferences and choices.
- Habits - Most of what we eat from a particular
core group of foods. About one hundred items account for 75
percent of the foods most people eat. Having a narrow range
of food choices provides us with security. For example,
going to a particular fast-food restaurant provides common
expectations and experiences. Many people also have the
cooking habits of our mothers or grandmothers.
- Culture - Religious rules can affect food
choices. For example, Hindus do not eat beef, and some
Jewish people do not eat pork. The region that people are
from can also affect eating behaviors. Swedish people would
not eat an ear of corn, because it is considered food for
hogs. In the United States, we don't normally eat insects,
but many other cultures regard them as preferred foods.
Culture can also dictate the times to eat and what to eat at
- Advertising - To capture the interest of the
consumer, food producers spend billions of dollars each year
on advertising and packaging, both for food bought in
grocery stores and restaurants. The power of persuasion is
very strong, and so food producers and restaurants try to
make their products as appealing as possible to consumers,
even if that means making false claims.
- Social factors - Social changes have a big effect
on the food industry. Our fast-paced society demands
drive-through restaurants. Gas stations now have convenience
stores and restaurants attached to them, so people can do
one-stop shopping. Malls also cater to their customers with
food courts offering a wide variety of foods.