Consumers and retail food employees' attitudes, knowledge, and skills with respect to soyfoods
This study sought to develop an informed understanding about consumers and retail food employees' perceived attitudes, knowledge and skills needed regarding soyfood purchase decisions. This exploratory research utilized a quantitative technique (self-administered questionnaire) and a qualitative technique (interview) to obtain data from participating grocery shoppers and retail food employees at two Saskatoon Co-op stores, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Descriptive and inferential statistics, frequency distributions, t-test, and Pearson chi-square test were used to assess quantitative data. A significance level of 5% was adopted. Interviews and open-ended questions and comments from the questionnaires were categorized into major themes, coded, and synthesized into descriptive reports. Findings of the questionnaire indicated that the demographics of the declared soy users at the sampled food stores were no different from grocery shoppers or declared soy non-users, i.e., predominantly female, Caucasian, older than 45 years old, household yearly income higher than CAD$50,000, and possessing at least a trade, college or university certificate, or diploma. There also was no significant difference with respect to the consumption of vegetables and fruits, nuts and beans, and dairy products between declared soy users and declared soy non-users. The majority of shoppers indicated that soy is healthy. When asked about soy health benefits, most shoppers indicated that soy helped reduce the risks of heart disease; however, they were neutral with respect to the soy's ability to help reduce the risk of cancer and bone loss, to cause allergies, and to alter estrogen levels in the body. The percentage of soy users who agreed with the following statements "Soy is low in cholesterol", "Soy helps reduce the risks of heart disease", "Soy is healthy", "Soy helps reduce risk of cancer", "Soy consumption is completely safe", and "Soy can fulfill part of my protein needs" was significantly higher when compared to soy non-users. Findings suggest that grocery shoppers at both food stores purchased soy products mainly because these foods were nutritious and good sources of protein. Any health claim usually associated to soy with respect to the prevention of chronic diseases was not indicated as a major factor that would influence the purchase of soy foods. Lack of knowledge and cooking skills were identified by most participating grocery shoppers as major barriers to consuming soy products. Price reduction and taste improvement were identified as factors that would increase consumption of soy products. The majority of grocery shoppers and food store employees indicated interest in learning more about soy products. Learning strategies suggested by employees were training sessions, cooking classes, taste tests, and information pamphlets. This research identified important factors contributing to soy foods consumption that can be used as a starting point to develop a specific framework in which to further examine consumer knowledge and consumption behaviours relating to other aspects of soy and other legumes.