Objective: To determine consumer salient beliefs toward functional foods enriched with omega-3 fatty acids.
Design: Focus group interviews with adult consumers using the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) as a theoretical framework.
Setting: Community-based residents living in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia.
Participants: Forty-two overweight participants (29 female, 13 male) aged 30 to 80 years recruited by advertisement and attending 1 of 6 focus groups, which were recorded and transcribed verbatim.
Analysis: Content analysis was carried out, and subcategories were developed to capture the emerging themes according to the TPB model.
Results: Most participants were aware of a range of potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, but they had reservations about the ability of omega-3–enriched foods to deliver a health benefit. They were concerned about whether these foods were labeled clearly and about the possibility of overdosing. Family and friends were viewed as important in introducing participants to novel foods on the market. Participants regarded dietitians as a credible source and were least trusting of food companies and scientists. Overall, participants reported that cost was a major barrier, and that they would not necessarily trade taste for health benefits. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to foods regarded as less healthful was viewed more as a gimmick rather than a real health benefit.
Conclusions and Implications: The consumer attitudes and purchase intentions identified in this study will be helpful to educators as they plan messages and strategies to guide dietary choices related to products enriched with omega-3 fatty acids.