Student Consumers’ Purchase Intention of Functional Foods: An Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior

Jana Rösner & Ingvild Oeystese

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the purchase behavior concerning functional foods of university students in Germany and Denmark. More specifically, the study applied the Theory of Planned Behavior to explain the functional food purchase intention of this consumer group, and the factors influencing the intention to buy these foods.
A quantitative research was conducted, and the primary data was collected through an online questionnaire targeted at university students in Germany and Denmark.. 159 complete questionnaire responses were obtained in total from the two countries.
The purchase intention of functional foods was found to be explained by the TPB constructs attitudes and subjective norm in Germany, and solely by attitudes in Denmark. Furthermore, it was found that some of the behavioral and control beliefs also had a direct influence on purchase behavior, though the TPB only suggests an indirect link between the beliefs and purchase intention. The beliefs that had a direct influence on purchase intention in Germany were perceived healthiness and perceived nutritional knowledge, and perceived healthiness and willingness to pay a higher price in Denmark. Despite of the finding of direct relationships between beliefs and intention, overall, the inclusion of the beliefs specific to functional foods to the TPB model was found not to increase the model’s ability to measure purchase intention. This suggests that the beliefs included in TPB model in this case might not be the most salient for this consumer group, and future research on this topic is therefore suggested.
The study found that the student consumer group both in Germany and Denmark values healthy eating which means that this group is a promising target group for healthy food products such as functional food. Though the average consumer’s purchase intention was found to be slightly negative, attitudes were positive, which is relevant and posts an opportunity for marketers since attitude was found to be a direct determinant of purchase intention, just as suggested by the TPB. Perceived healthiness was found to increase the attitude towards functional food in both countries, which in turn increases purchase intention, and both attitudes and perceived healthiness were found to be strong direct determinants of purchase intention in both markets. Marketing managers in these countries should therefore focus their strategies on increasing the perceived healthiness and aim to create positive attitudes towards functional food in the mind of the consumer, in order to increase purchase intention, and ultimately actual purchase.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages202
SupervisorsJesper Clement