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Finns and functional foods: socio-demographics, health efforts, notions of technology and the acceptability of health-promoting foods


Mari Niva, National Consumer Research Centre, PO Box 5 (Kaikukatu 3), FI-00531 Helsinki, Finland. E-mail:


Eating is increasingly characterized by concerns over health and well-being. New types of foods designed to promote health or to reduce the risk of diseases, known as functional foods, have been entering the market since the 1990s. This article focuses on the appropriation of functional foods among Finnish consumers from the perspective of acceptability. We analyse the relationship between consumers’ views of functional foods and their socio-demographic backgrounds, health efforts and notions of food, health and technology. The article is based on a survey of a representative sample of Finnish consumers (n = 1210). The data were collected by using computer-assisted telephone interviews and analysed by factor analysis and analysis of variance. The factor analysis resulted in four dimensions of acceptability: (1) experiences of functional foods; (2) views on product quality and safety; (3) societal concerns over current developments; and (4) views on regulation and research. According to the results, the differences in consumer views of functional foods were to some extent linked with age and education but better explained by the differing roles of food and health in people’s lives and the acceptability of modern food technologies. Efforts to lower blood cholesterol and/or blood pressure, the use of dietary supplements, regarding healthy eating as very important and having an optimistic outlook on the use of technology in food production were all related to more optimistic views of functional foods. Finns seem to have a relatively trusting position on functional foods. Familiarity of functional foods in Finland, absence of serious food scandals, the health-oriented Finnish culture and the generally high level of societal trust may account for this optimism.