Posted 24 February 2015
A final year student at Harper Adams University is investigating whether celebrity endorsements of food products affect body image and consumer behaviour.
22-year-old Lisa Pinner studies BSc (Hons) Food, Nutrition and Well-being and wants to find out whether the use of celebrities in marketing is effective in encouraging shoppers to purchase either healthy or unhealthy foods.
She is also comparing the differences between the sexes, to find out if men are as influenced by these marketing techniques as women.
Lisa from Boston, Lincolnshire, said: “There has been plenty of media coverage on the effect that stereotypical body images, such as those of celebrities, have on the general public.
“Quite often, stereotypical images portrayed in the media can cause body dissatisfaction in both men and women.
“But what I want to find out is how this affects shopping habits and food choices, and also whether men are as influenced as women by this celebrity culture.
“After conducting a literature review, it showed that there has been little research into the affect that these marketing techniques have on men specifically, which inspired the subject of this project.”
Examples of celebrity endorsements include Nicole Scherzinger and Muller yoghurts and Gary Lineker and Walkers crisps.
To conduct her research, Lisa has hosted a series of gender-specific focus groups using staff and students from the university.
She chose this method of collecting results to allow for discussion and debate amongst the participants, who were asked around 10 questions as a group.
The former Boston High School student said: “Using celebrities to endorse a product can prove an effective method of marketing for food manufacturers. Either to raise awareness of a new product, or to boost the profile of an existing one.
“Although I’m personally not affected by the use of celebrities in this manner, I appreciate that many people may be influenced by the use of their favourite celebrity on a food product.
“I predict that the results will show that women are more likely to buy healthy products if they are promoted by a celebrity, but due to the lack of existing literature, can’t predict whether this will also apply to men.”
Lisa, who is from a non-farming background, is currently analysing her results and hopes that they will prove useful to food manufacturers to help to effectively target their marketing.
She added: “I’ve always had an interest in food as my mum cooked and baked a lot when I was younger. This then led to me choosing to study it at GCSE, A-Level and then for my degree.
“In the future I would really like a role in new product development, possibly in either the ready meal sector or fresh produce industry.”
As well as a personal interest in baking, Lisa has completed a variety of extra qualifications including: CIEH Level 2 Award in Food Safety for Manufacturing, CIEH Level 3 Award in Food Safety Supervision for Manufacturing and RSPH Level 2 in HACCP.
For her industrial placement year, she worked for Univeg UK, leading UK importers and distributors of top fruit. She worked as a quality controller, primarily with apples and pears, supplying companies such as Waitrose, M&S and Aldi.
The results of Lisa’s research will be available later this year.