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Can information positively influence familiarity and acceptance of a novel ethnic food? A case study of Korean traditional foods for Malaysian consumers

Choe, Seo‐Youn, Hong, Jae‐Hee
Journal of sensory studies 2018 v.33 no.3 pp. e12327
case studies, consumer acceptance, cuisine, foreign markets, noodles, researchers, traditional foods, uncertainty
Owing to consumers' neophobic responses, successfully launching an ethnic food onto a foreign market is challenging. Information may increase the liking of an ethnic food by decreasing uncertainty about it. This study investigated whether information influences Malaysian consumers' acceptance of and familiarity with Korean ethnic food. Two traditional Korean noodle products were evaluated by 212 Malaysian consumers with different levels of prior experience with Korean food. Familiarity and overall liking were assessed in blind and informed settings. The results showed that previous experience, not information, significantly increased consumer acceptance and familiarity. Information moderated the effect of previous experience, increasing the liking of and familiarity with the ethnic food among frequent consumers of Korean food, but decreasing them among infrequent users. It seems that previous experience helps consumers to form favorable expectations and to expect product performance close to the actual performance, resulting in an assimilation effect in the presence of information. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: Successful market entry of an ethnic food requires a systematic approach based on understanding of consumers in a target country. This study presents results relevant to understanding of Asian consumers' liking and perception of ethnic foods. It was identified that information influenced liking by creating expectation rather than by familiarizing consumers, and also that the effect of information was moderated by personal experiences with cuisine of the country which the ethnic food product is originated from. Results of this study suggest that different strategies for delivering information, such as label and product description, should be developed according to the target consumers' level of experiences. Findings from the present study have implications for researchers and marketers in the ethnic food market with regard to presentation of information congruent to actual sensory performances to increase acceptance of an unfamiliar ethnic food.