MNC-operated fast food outlets

Executive Summary

Globalization has influenced the lives of people around the world in numerous ways. With the shrinking of the global marketplace, regional cultures become more dynamic and changes in culture influence consumer behavior. The Indian fast food industry has witnessed about 40% growth year after year for more than a decade. MNC giants such as McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos Pizza and Subway have established their presence in the Indian market since India liberalized its economic policies in the early 1990's.

The dual objective of this study is to assess the impact of demographic variances on consumer behavior at MNC-operated fast food outlets and assess the role that emerging cultural trends play in the success of MNC-operated fast food outlets in Bangalore. To achieve the objective of this study primary data has been collected from 200 fast food consumers in Bangalore. A self administered questionnaire using a non-probability sampling technique called Convenience Sampling was employed. Statistical tools such as Chi-square, arithmetic mean and percentage are used to analyze and evaluate the data. The data has been presented in this thesis with the help of tabular and graphical representations. The study tested four hypotheses using Chi-square tests with 5% level of confidence. The hypotheses have been crafted to verify whether important demographic variables such as age, family type, working couple and family income determined fast food consumption.

Demographic variables have been categorically analyzed for different fast food consumer behavior variables. The study revealed that the younger and middle-aged population is more aware about MNC fast food outlets, frequently visiting and spending more than the older population primarily because MNC fast food in relatively new to India and the younger generation is more open to adapting new ideas and cultural trends. Respondents who are employed in the private sector are most patronizing of MNC fast food outlets in Bangalore due to the higher income levels, long working hours and diverse cultural background of their peers. About 95% of the respondents living in nuclear families are aware about MNC fast food compared to about 83% living in joint families. Nuclear families and working couples are an important indicator of emerging cultural trends in urban India and they consume more of MNC fast food than joint families and single spouse working families respectively because of higher disposable income and a busy life style. The study also found that smaller families are more aware and frequented MNC fast food outlets more. 11% of the respondents did not have regularly prepared home food and hence they relied more on food away from home and visited MNC fast food outlets more frequently. Most of the respondents with reasonable disposable income, especially those with a self income of above Rs.12,000 and family income of above Rs.30,000, are regular visitors to MNC fast food outlets.

The study points out that hygiene is the most important factor affecting the consumers' choice of fast food outlet followed by taste. Most consumers (54%) travel between two to five kilometers to visit fast food outlets. About 86% of the consumers are satisfied with available fast food options.

The testing of the four hypotheses showed that age, family type, working couple and family income are major determinants of MNC fast food consumption. This study finds that demographic variables influence MNC fast food consumption and emerging cultural trends have contributed to the proliferation of MNC fast food outlets in Bangalore. The study concludes with recommendations, managerial and business implications and scope for further research.

Chapter 1 - Introduction

1.1 Introduction

Consumer behavior is influenced by the several factors including the culture of a society which shapes the attitudes and behavior of the populace. Emerging global cultural trends in consumer behavior are brought about by changes in culture, demography, rising wealth, infrastructure and values[1]. The fast food industry in post liberalized India has grown significantly due to the addition of MNC-operated fast food outlets to the existing Indian operated fast food outlets.

Globalization has created many opportunities and posed many challenges for MNCs who are dealing with dynamic cultural elements and varied consumer behavior in extremely diverse markets. There is strong evidence from existing academic literature to suggest that national culture plays a critical role in the formation of an individual's attitudes, beliefs and values. It is widely accepted amongst marketing scholars that culture plays an important role in determining consumer perception and buyer behavior. Many scholars have contributed to human understanding of culture and its implications in the business world. Many cultural changes have occurred in the Indian society since it adopted liberalization and globalization. Demographically India is one of the most diverse countries. The success and growth of the MNC-operated fast food outlets in India may perhaps have been assisted by the emerging cultural trends in India.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Globalization has been referred to by many scholars as the second industrial revolution. Since the last two decades global trade has increased significantly in terms of magnitude and complexity. The international strategic decision making process in a MNC involves extensive understanding of the cultural nuances of its target market to forecast the consumer behavior and success of their products/services in their overseas markets. It must be noted that an understanding of the cultural differences prevalent in the countries involved in international business are important elements contributing to the accuracy and effectiveness of the international strategic decision making process. However, the influence of culture on consumer behavior is not easily measured yet it bears a critical impact on the success or failure of products and services. Since India liberalized its economy in the early 1990s many MNCs have entered the Indian markets to tap the potential of India's huge population base. Fast-food industry in Bangalore has witnessed a boom in recent years dominated by giant MNCs like Pizza-Hut, KFC, Subway, McDonalds, etc.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

This study has been undertaken to assess and evaluate whether the emerging cultural trends impact consumer behavior in a way which favors the proliferation of MNC fast food outlets in Bangalore. This study analyses existing research in the field of consumer behavior, intercultural studies and the fast food industry. The study analyzes demographically categorized consumer behavior at MNC-operated fast food outlets in Bangalore to identify trends and patterns which might indicate whether emerging cultural trends have contributed to the increase in MNC-operated fast food outlets in Bangalore. Bangalore is one of India's most cosmopolitan and multi ethnic cities and provides an excellent opportunity to study emerging cultural trends.

1.4 Objectives

This study has a dual objective. The objective of the study is:-

* to assess the impact of demographic variances on consumer behavior at MNC-operated fast food outlets in Bangalore

* to assess the impact of emerging cultural trends in consumer behavior favoring the proliferation of MNC-operated fast food outlets in Bangalore.

1.5 Research Question

This study attempts at evaluating the link between emerging cultural trends and the boom witnessed in the MNC-operated fast food outlets in Bangalore. The research questions of this study are as follows:-

* Do demographic variables affect consumer behavior at MNC-operated fast food outlets in Bangalore?

* Do emerging cultural trends affect consumer behavior facilitating the boom in the MNC-operated fast food industry in Bangalore?

1.6 Scope and Limitations

The word culture has many definitions and its meaning is very content sensitive. For the purpose of this study, common elements across definitions relevant from a societal perspective are adopted. Although cultural references are drawn from around the world the focus is primarily on Indian cultural elements. The study also limits its scope to the urban population and MNC fast food outlets in Bangalore. Though changes in cultural elements and consumption patterns of the rural population in India are becoming more prominent this study ignores those aspects and focuses only on the urban population of the city of Bangalore. All the elements in the sample are limited to middle and upper-middle class families and a young urban population having similar disposable income. The survey is conducted within Bangalore city and a similar survey in Chennai, Kolkata or Delhi may produce different results. The study focuses on the proliferation of MNC-operated fast food outlets while not paying as much attention to the impact of cultural changes on fast food outlets owned and operated by domestic firms and entrepreneurs. The primary data gathered and analyzed in this study contains only 200 completed questionnaires and a larger sample using probabilistic techniques may produce better results. The study intends to analyze the impact of cultural changes on consumer behavior and its correlation to the boom in the MNC-operated fast food outlet while ignoring impact that the MNC-operated fast food outlets may have on the local culture and the implications thereof. Though consumers are becoming more and more health conscious this study does not accommodate any measurement of health awareness related parameters.

Chapter 2 - Literature Review

The analysis of existing literature in consumer behavior, cultural studies, economics, marketing, psychology, sociology and fast food is essential to bring the reader up to date with the current state of research and knowledge in these fields. In this chapter, literature review is presented in three parts consisting of a conceptual analysis, followed by an analysis of empirical evidence and contextual analysis of relevant existing literature in the areas of consumer behavior, cultural studies and fast food.

2.1 Conceptual Review

Conceptual review covers the major concepts namely culture, consumer behavior and fast food.

2.1.1 Culture

Culture is a wide all encompassing term with many definitions[2]. Solomon[3] describes culture as accumulation of shared meanings, rituals, norms and traditions among members of an organization or society. Hawkins et al. (1998) describe culture in a more complex manner including knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs and other capabilities and habits acquired by people as members of a society. Culture is basically a set of norms and beliefs that are shared by a group of people who derive life guiding principles from them. For the purpose of this study culture is defined as the way of life of people sharing common norms and beliefs which shape their behavior.

The most widely used model of cultural dimension is the one developed by Geert Hofstede[4]. The five cultural dimensions according to Geert Hofstede are power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, masculinity-feminity and short-long term orientation. Interestingly, India's ranking[5] in the uncertainty avoidance metric is 40 against a world average of 65 which implies that Indians are more open to new unstructured ideas and situations and offer less resistance to accept new cultural values. Hofstede's study is primarily oriented towards national culture and his data is also restricted to employees working for organizations, besides his findings are arguably outdated in the fast changing globalized scenario.

The concept of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) was introduced by Christopher Earley and Soon Ang[6] and it has gained wide acceptance in the contemporary business community. Their work revolves around an individual's ability to interact with people from different cultures. Earley and Ang have identified four categories in their model namely Cognition, Metacognition, Motivation and Behavior. Earley's and Ang's work is primarily aimed at assisting the individual in improving his/her cultural skills.

In a hallmark study in 2008, Priscilla Rogers and Joo-Seng Tan[7] studied 50 years of work on intercultural studies commencing from “The Silent Language” by Hall(1959). The study identifies five different perspectives of intercultural studies namely universal, national, organizational, interpersonal and intrapersonal and the key scholars associated with them. However, the authors observed areas of overlap in the researcher's approaches, theories and methodologies and suggested an integrative perspective proposing the use of three model, i.e., selected lens, sequential hierarchy or dialogic identity.

2.1.2 Cultural Identity and Globalization

Cultural identity refers to a person's sense of belonging to a particular cultural, national or ethnic group. John Tomlinson[8] defines cultural identity as “local, autonomous, distinct and well-defined, robust and culturally sustaining connections between geographical place and cultural experience”. Cultures from the developing world are particularly at risk of losing their cultural identity[9].

Throughout history, cultures have long influenced each other through trade, migration and even war. As trade across political boundaries occur new cultural values become easily acceptable[10]. Although the term globalization was used by social scientist in the 1960s it only became popular in the late 1980s and 1990s under the domain of economist and politicians promoting business interests. Globalization is defined in many ways. In its simplest form it refers to the process of integrating local and regional elements into global ones. Presently it is used to refer to the economic integration of world economies. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established in 1995 to promote economic globalization and trade liberalization. The impact of economic globalization can be observed in social, cultural, financial and technological dimensions in today's world. Economic globalization leads to cultural globalization[11] since it discourages diversity and localization. People and cultures around the world are more connected today than ever before.

One major impact of globalization on culture is the emergence of a new strong global cultural identity where people are becoming increasingly sentient about their global identity in the shrinking global village. According to Jeffrey Arnett[12], four major issues have been recognized in the identity transformation of people:-

1. Bicultural/Hybrid identity means that one part of a persons' identity is rooted in local culture while another part of the persons' identity is rooted in the global world. In earlier days, the development of global identities was accredited to immigration and interaction with ethnic minorities. Technological advances in media and communication such as global satellite television and the internet have aided the growing sense of peoples' belongingness to the global culture. This effect is particularly evident in the younger generation. However, people do not desert their local cultural identity while adopting the global cultural identity. It is also observed that the local cultural identity gets modified by the global cultural elements. The educated youth of India serves as a good example of people who have adopted a global fast paced technological lifestyle while still maintaining traditional cultural values such as religious beliefs, marriage ceremonies and caring for aged parents.

2. Identity confusion refers to the state of cultural identity where people are unable to adapt to rapid changes. This is particularly apparent in the experience of people belonging to non-western cultures as a response to changes triggered by globalization. These individuals are confronted with a scenario where the global cultural identity may seem out of reach, too alien or even undermining their own local cultural values and beliefs. This process of being excluded from both the global and local culture is commonly known as delocalization or displacement. Unlike the bicultural/hybrid identities these people feel isolated and excluded from both their local culture and the global culture. As these individuals grow in the void of cultural belonging they develop an acute sense of alienation and impermanence often resulting in psychological problems such as depression, suicidal tendencies and substance abuse. A sharp increase in the instances of suicide and substance abuse by young people has been noted in a variety of cultures that are moving rapidly to embrace the global culture.

3. Self-selected culture refers to the people who have formed groups with like minded persons who wish to have an identity that is uncontaminated by the influence of global culture. Amongst the many critics of globalization, the erosion of local cultural identity is one of the strongest opposing arguments. While self-selected cultural identity may have religion as a base for commonality, it may also include groups propagating fundamentalism, regionalism and anti-global views.

4. The spread of emerging adulthood refers to the social change where timing of transition to adult roles such as work, marriage and parenthood occur at later stages than observed earlier. This change is credited to the need to prepare oneself for getting desired employment in the modern economy which is highly technological and information based. When longer periods of emerging adulthood are prevalent individuals find more time to learn about themselves and develop their identities. These people may experience different educational possibilities, jobs, cultural affiliations and love relationships. They typically spend their late teens to mid twenties exploring possibilities of self-discovery and self development. This trait is particularly prevalent in the developed economic societies which free these individuals from the need to contribute to their family's economic well-being[13]. In the poor and rural sections of the developing and under developed economies the reverse is true where early work, marriage and parenthood is still very common. It is observed that “in many ways, the lives of middleclass youth in India, South East Asia and Europe have more in common with each other than they do with those of poor youth in their own countries.”[14]

Andy Hines[15] analyzed the latest global trends in culture classifying them into five categories namely demography, rising wealth, culture, infrastructure and values. He points out the following emerging trends:-

* Contrary to the concern of many authors that a homogeneous global culture dominated by the United States and its powerful entertainment industry is taking over the global culture the author speculates that local cultures are more robust than was thought. People absorb from and adapt to the global culture in a selective manner, taking in the aspects of global culture that they like, ignoring the rest and holding tightly to what they cherish about their local culture.

* Global division of labor as a strategy adopted by global businesses has created new centers of cultural excellence in developing nations resulting in cultural multi-polarity. When a certain region provides the best of a particular product or service, it is likely that other regions will readily adapt and move to other products and services.

* In the future one may expect to see new ideas, products and services coming from practically every corner of the globe. The growing numbers of teens and young adults who identify themselves as global citizens is an indicator of the cultural flow across the globe aided by internet and media spread where most generation Y individuals are interacting with online friends from all over the world.

* Electrification, transportation, communication, internet access and infrastructural developments in the developing and under-developed world have increased the interaction between people in an unprecedented way. Increased mobility has accelerated the changes in daily lives of people allowing them to expand their boundaries and horizons by gaining greater options for shopping, employment and social interaction.

* Ethical consumption is becoming more and more common where people express their values through the goods and services purchased. It is common today to see many goods labeled organic, natural, free range, fair trade, green, carbon neutral and socially responsible. Ethical issues regarding corporate hiring practices, research and development methods, corporate philanthropy and advertising are gaining importance to the emerging consumers.

* The increase in woman participation in the labor force and the association of feministic values centered on relationship and trust are most likely to play an increasingly important role in shaping the knowledge economy organizations.

* Social freedom and transparency are emerging as important values determining elements of the future. Websites such as MySpace and Facebook have contributed to a greater sharing of personal information.

According to social scientist Professor Lynn Jamieson[16] of the University of Edinburgh, “The current state of the art of understanding identity formation stresses the fluidity, complexity and context sensitivity of identities. Individuals have multiple identities and even within a single given setting may appeal to a range of identities.” She also confirms the extension of young people's education and training having contributed to identity issues in European nations, i.e. in terms of heightened emphasis on choice and individualism in the Western culture with specific emphasis on youth in career education, vocationalism and self-development.

2.1.3 Consumer Behavior

According to the American Marketing Association, consumer behavior is defined as “the dynamic interaction of affect and cognition, behavior, and environmental events by which human beings conduct the exchange aspects of their lives.”[17] Essentially consumer behavior is the study on when, why, how, where and what consumers buy or don't buy. Consumer behavior as a subject blends elements from sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics and socio-psychology.

Luna and Gupta[18] provide a reinterpreted and integrated framework to cross-cultural consumer behavior. They adopt an applied perspective to two distinct traditions in the study of culture and consumer behavior. According to them, the next few decades will be most critical for marketers and consumer researchers in trying to understand how culture influences consumer behavior.

According to Steadman[19], consumers expect more than just food when they go to a restaurant to dine in or even take a take-away. Customers at fine dining restaurants want to be made to feel special and different. Most consumers place a lot of importance to the service quality, presentation of food and the ambience in the restaurants.

2.1.4 Fast Food

The term fast food is generally used to describe food that can be prepared and served quickly. Bender and Bender[20] have defined fast food as a “general term used for a limited menu of foods that lends itself to production-line techniques; suppliers tend to specialize in products such as hamburgers, pizzas, chicken or sandwiches”. The term fast food was first recognized in a dictionary by Merriam-Webster in 1951, the year when the first Jack in the Box restaurant was opened in San Diego. Fast food is differentiated from other types of food away from home by its fast and immediate service to customers. In this paper fast food refers to food sold in a restaurant with low preparation time and available in take away packaging such as those provided by MNC-operated outlets of Pizza Hut, McDonalds and KFC. Fast food is usually highly processed and prepared in a standardized industrial manner with standard ingredients, cooking and production methods.

In his ground breaking book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser[21] argues that the “whole experience of buying fast food has become so routine, so thoroughly unexceptional and mundane, that it is now taken for granted, like brushing your teeth or stopping for a red light. It has become a social custom as American as a small, rectangular, hand-held, frozen, and reheated apple pie.”

2.2 Empirical Evidence

Relevant empirical evidence available from existing research is provided in the following subsections to familiarize the reader with the present state of affairs.

2.2.1 Intercultural Studies

Shalom H. Schwartz[22] identified universal values which flow from the most basic human needs. Schwartz collected information from a sample of over 25,000 individuals who ranked 56 different values that were guiding principles of their lives. One major limitation of Hofstede's and Schwartz' work is that they adopt a national and universal perspective to intercultural studies respectively which excludes the possibility to analyze people on the basis of individual cultural differences.

Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner[23] adopted a business-organizational perspective to intercultural studies. Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner gathered data from more than 15,000 managers from 28 countries in their initial research. Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner discovered a number of relationship orientations that assist in explaining cultural differences. Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner identified seven cultural dichotomies namely Universalism vs. Particularism, Community vs. Individual, Neutral vs. Affective Emotion, Diffuse vs. Specific, Achievement vs. Ascription, Sequential vs. Synchronic and Internal vs. External Orientation.

2.2.2 International Fast Food Consumption

Research work has been done in many parts of the world about consumer behavior and fast food consumption pattern. This section reviews empirical evidence from existing literature on fast food consumption patterns in United States, Turkey and India enabling one to have a wider perspective from an international standpoint. United States

According to a USDA report[24], Americans spent about 46 percent of their food budget on food away from home in 2002 in comparison to 27 percent in 1962. Even food consumed at home is increasingly becoming a take-away meal from a restaurant, a drive-through meal from a fast food outlet, a ready to eat meal from a supermarket, or a meal delivered to the home. According to the USDA's food intake surveys between 1977-78 and 1994-96, the share of daily caloric intake from food away from home increased from 18 percent to 32 percent. While all age groups experienced the increase, it was highest among younger adults. In 1994-96, men aged between 18 and 39 obtained 39 percent of their daily calories from food prepared away from home, compared with only 23 percent in 1977-78. For women of the same age group, the 1994-96 share was 37 percent compared with 21 percent in 1977-78. The rise in consumption of food away from home has paralleled the growing prevalence of overweight and obesity among both juvenile and adult populations in the United States, and many public health advocates have implicated an increased appetite for such food as a contributing factor. The foodservice industry and restaurant groups reject any link between the rising obesity rates and foods consumed in restaurants or other away-from-home food sources. They point out that restaurants have a wide variety of menu choices and that customers must choose responsibly and with moderation. USDA's food intake data unambiguously show that away-from-home foods tend to be of lower nutritional quality than food prepared at home. Foods prepared away from home contain more calories per eating occasion (meals and snacks) and are higher in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol and lower in dietary fiber, calcium, and iron on a per calorie basis than food prepared at home. Americans who consume a poor quality diet based on the Healthy Eating Index tend to consume a greater proportion of their daily calories away from home than those with a good quality diet. Compared with those with good quality diets, individuals with poor quality diets have lower per capita expenditures on food away from home, but their away-from-home diets contain more calories per gram of food consumed.

McDonald's, the fast food industry leader came out with a proactive strategy to proliferate their presence through “satellite” restaurants. These smaller outlets not only offer limited menu but are also cost effective with lower construction and operating cost and often tend to be set up on leased property further reducing the cost of expansion. According to the 1994 Annual Report of McDonald's Corporation USA, “McDonald's wants to have a site wherever people live, work, play, or gather. Our Convenience Strategy is to monitor the changing lifestyles of consumers and intercept them at every turn. As we expand customer convenience, we gain market share.”

An empirical study[25] in 2001 explored the connection between accessibility of fast food outlets and the growth in demand for fast food. This study focused exclusively on fast food outlets and emphasized the role of market penetration as an explanatory factor while also considering other demand variables such as prices and income. The study examined consumption patterns across markets to develop an accessibility measure. Along with the purchase and consumption of goods and services, time is incorporated into the utility maximization problem (Becker, 1975). Consumers are not only concerned with the retail price of the product but also with time cost incurred when purchasing and consuming the product. The "full price" (P) is the sum of these two components, i.e., P = P + vt, where P is the retail price paid at the counter, t is the time necessary to complete the transaction, and v is the consumer value of time. It is observed that fast food suppliers emphasize minimization of time costs, that is, the maximization of convenience. The study indicated that the time spent traveling to the retail outlet is an important component of the time cost of the customer. And since time spent on traveling is a direct function of distance traveled, a new fast food outlet closer than before would lower the full price of the product for the customer resulting in an increase of the frequency of purchase. The authors examined U.S Department of Commerce / Bureau of the Census data from 1982 and 1992. The demand equation derived is shown as:-

Per Capita Fast Food Consumption = f(market characteristics, price and income, demographics, regional indicators)

The equation was estimated for both 1982 and 1992 using the same cross section of 85 metropolitan areas. The findings revealed the following:-

* The demand for fast food is highly correlated with the demand for convenience. An important component of convenience is the ease of consumer access to the product.

* An increase in the number of fast food outlets in a given market directly increases the quantity consumed by the customer. This is achieved by reducing the cost of obtaining a fast food meal.

* The proliferation of fast food outlets explains much of the long term growth in the fast food industry.

* The fast food industry has continually found novel ways to make its products more accessible by means of entering various non-conventional locations such as office buildings, department stores and gasoline stations.

* No empirical evidence is available to indicate that fast food companies are in direct competition with table service restaurants in an equivalent price range.

* There is no evidence to suggest that consumption of fast food varies across demographic groups or income levels except for a growing tendency for Black American and Hispanic consumers to have a higher than average fast food consumption.

* There are significant differences in the regional consumption of fast food over time.

* The growth in consumption of fast food is strongly attributable to the increasing supply of convenience.

The highlights of Mark D. Jenkanowski's study[26] on the causes and consequences of the growth in fast food sales in the United States are as follows:-

* Today's hectic lifestyle has resulted in the increased demand for fast food products. People do not want to spend a lot of time preparing meals, traveling to pick up meals or waiting for meals in restaurants.

* The expansion of fast food outlets is a reflection of consumer demand for convenience and fast food. Most of the expansion in fast food outlets is through “Satellite” outlets which tend to be smaller in size with little or no seating capacity and are often located in non-traditional locations such as office buildings, department stores, airports and petrol stations.

* Take away food is a major contributor to the sales revenue of fast food companies. Since Wendy's introduced the drive-thru concept in 1974 its popularity has been contributed to huge proportions of total sales in the United States such as 60 percent of total sales at Burger King and 54 percent of total sales at McDonald's.

* Since most of the major players in the fast food industry offer a limited menu their growth can have an enormous effect on selected segments of the agricultural production system. For example, when under pressure of public health concern over intake of saturated fat in 1990 McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King switched to vegetable cooking oil from beef tallow. This change in cooking oil increased the demand for vegetable oil by 250 - 300 million pounds per year in the United States which amounts to 6 percent of the total vegetable oil production in 1990. Turkey

A study[27] conducted in the urban area of Adana, Turkey investigated the relationship between consumer fast food consumption frequency and their socio-economic and demographic characteristics and attitudes. The study hypothesized that consumers with higher income and education were spending more on fast food outlets than those consumers whose income and education levels were lower. The study used Chi-square test of independence comparing the consumers' fast food consumption frequencies on basis of never, low, moderate and high usage. The study also used the sign and significance of coefficients and marginal effects to establish the consumer consumption characteristics which determined their fast food consumption frequency. The results of the 384 observations revealed the following:-

* About 55% of the customers consume fast food to add diversity to their diet

* About 46% of the consumers did not consume fast food in the month prior to the survey

* About 22% of the consumers consumed fast food once or twice in the last month

* About 21% of the consumers consumed fast food once a week

* About 13% of the consumers consumed fast food on a daily basis.

The study also suggested statistically significant relationships between fast food consumption frequency and household characteristics. The results are as follows:-

* The households headed by highly educated people are more likely to consume fast food than those households headed by lesser educated consumers

* Households with children are more likely to consume fast food than those households without children

* Households with higher income are more likely to consume fast food than those with lower income

* Smaller sized households with children consume fast food in higher frequency

* Households that never consumed fast foods are likely to have members who are above 50 years of age

* Households with working women do not statistically affect fast food consumption.

The study also indicated consumers' attitudes, price, health concerns and child preferences highly impacted the frequency of consumption of fast food. India

Food diversity in India is reflective of the diverse cultural background in India. Traditionally Indians prefer to consume home cooked food which is accepted to be superior and purer than food away from home. According to a study by Anita Goyal and N P Singh[28], increasing awareness and influence of western culture has caused shift in food consumption patterns among urban Indian families. Since liberalization of the Indian economy in the early 1990s many foreign fast food companies have entered the Indian markets which has caused a significant change in the lifestyles and the food preferences of Indians. Fast food has particularly gained popularity and wide acceptance in the Indian palate after the multinational fast food players began customizing their product offering to suit Indian tastes. The MNC fast food companies began offering vegetarian meals and selected non-vegetarian options excluding beef and pork totally from their menu. The study focused on understanding the factors that affect the fast food consumption of Indian youth and the factors determining their choice of fast food outlets. The study applied multivariate statistical tools to estimate the importance of the various factors that affect the choice of fast food outlets by young Indian consumers. The following is a brief of the findings of the study:-

* The environment at home, educational environment, availability and accessibility of fast food outlets and the social environment are the major factors that influence the food habits of young Indians.

* The preference and the frequency of visiting the fast food outlets depends on factors such as the emergence of traits of independence in their eating habits, nutritional education, divergence of food preferences at home and at fast food outlets and the favorable socialization-friendly ambience of the fast food outlet.

* 93 percent of the young Indians were influenced by peer preferences and decisions in choosing the fast food outlet. Only 3% of the sample believed that fast food outlets offered healthy food.

* Of the factors contributing to the customers' preference of the fast food outlets, food taste and quality were the most important attribute to the customer followed by ambience and hygiene, service speed, price, variety of food choices and location of the outlet.

* Most of the young Indian consumers visit fast food outlets for a change in food variety and to have a good time usually socializing with peers.

* 83 percent of the consumers believed that fast food outlets must provide information on hygiene conditions; 68 percent of the consumers wanted to have nutritional information about the food to be displayed in the restaurant; 70 percent believed that these information would help them increase their frequency of visiting fast food outlets.

* A comparison of McDonalds with Nirulas, a local fast food company, the results suggested that McDonalds scored higher on 6 of the 7 attributes, trailing only in variety.

However, an interesting aspect of the study was that 81 percent of the consumers preferred home cooked food in comparison to food from fast food outlets. The reasons cited by the consumers are:-

* Food from fast food outlets contain unhealthy food and is expensive

* The home ambience is considered better

* Home food is more nutritious, delicious, tasty, clean, fresh and healthy

* With home food people are sure about what is prepared and how it is prepared

There is relatively less work on the impact of cultural factors in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flowing into India. A study in 2006[29] finds that amongst the social and explicit cultural variables that have a measurable effect of FDI flows into India, urbanization stands out as the most important factor.

Sumant Sarin and Clayton Barrows[30] examined the current food and beverage trends in India while assessing the potential demand for luxury food and beverage products in the Indian market. The authors observe that in the period from 1995 to 2005 there has been a dramatic change in the food and beverage sector in India as a result of changing socio-economic conditions, liberalization of industries, entry of foreign companies, dismantling of quantitative restrictions on imports, and increases in discretionary income. While these changes have occurred there has been a drastic shift in tastes and preferences of the Indian consumer and the way the consumers view everyday food and beverages. The study points out the following features:-

* Indian consumers' tastes and demands of the food and beverage sector are reaching new levels of sophistication brought about through foreign travel and the effects of the media.

* As large industrial cities and urban centers continue to develop a new middle class and new working class have emerged possessing a distinct social and cultural order.

* 6 crore households are well off by Indian standards and another 5 crore are approaching this level with annual incomes of more than US$ 3100. Rising disposable incomes, increasing consumerism and emergence of a credit culture are contributing to a growing demand for food and beverage in India.

* Most consumers living in cities have an awareness of quality and international brands and are willing to pay extra for premium goods and services.

* According to the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), there are five classes of consumer households in India based on annual income namely

1. The Rich (above Rs.215,000 p.a)

2. The Consuming Class (Rs.45,000-215,000)

3. The Climber (Rs.22,000-45,000)

4. The Aspirants (Rs.16,000-22,000)

5. The Destitute (below Rs.16,000)

Interestingly, the greatest growth in any segment between 1996 and 2007 has been in The Rich class with about 416 % increase, followed by The Consuming class with an increase of 179 % for the same period. More than 80 % of the total population of top households lives in the seven Indian cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bangalore (NCAER, 1997).

* The average middle class person can afford to spend more on convenience and the luxury to save time and energy which has in turn contributed to the growth in the instant and ready to eat segment of processed foods and fast food outlets.

* India has a young population with more than 50 % of the population below the age of 20 and more than 70 % below the age of 40.

* The number of households in the middle, upper and high-income categories has increased by 12 % annually in comparison to a national all category household increase of less than 3 % annually between 1990 and 1998. The households with higher disposable income have a greater propensity to spend on food and beverages.

* The average household size in India had declined from 5.9 in 1990 to 5.5 people per household in 1998. Increase in the percentage of Indian population living in cities and the increase in woman participation in the labor force have contributed to the growth in the number of consumers opting for meals away from home.

* The rural market in India is growing at about 3-4 % annually. The increased enrollment in schools and increased reach of mass media has triggered the rural demand for several lifestyle and aspiration products. The branded food products in India's rural markets have increased between 40-42 % in 2003 while categories of toiletries and cosmetics grew by 16 %.

* The slow market penetration of American styled processed foods is mainly due to the Indian consumer's preference for fresh products and traditional spices and ingredients. This also explains the dramatic growth experienced by MNC-operated fast food outlets as soon as they adapted their menu offerings to cater to Indian tastes.

* As per recent consumer surveys there is an increase in the Indian consumer's spending on high value food products such as milk, meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables.

* Urban Indian consumers are becoming increasingly aware of international cuisines such as Continental, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Thai and Japanese. An increasing number of consumers are willing to try out new food.

J S Prasad and D Raghunath Reddy[31] studied the role of demographic and psychographic elements in food and grocery retailing in India. Their study was based on primary data collected from 200 retail customers in Hyderabad and relevant secondary data. The authors point out that the fast changing trends in food and eating habits of Indian consumers have contributed to the proliferation of modern retail formats. India's large proportion of young working population, rising income levels, growing literacy, increasing woman participation in the labor force and increasingly popular nuclear family structure have created an enormous change in the consumers' demand for goods and services and has paved the way for modern retail formats such as convenience stores, department stores, supermarkets, specialty stores and hypermarkets. Changes in demand and supply, socio-cultural, demographic, psychographic, economic and technological advancements have led to changes in consumer behavior. The retail sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in India. Food and grocery is the second largest segment of the retail business in India. According to IMAGES India Retail Report, 2007, the retail market in India is about Rs.12,00,000 crore and the food and beverage retail business is estimated at Rs.21,000 crore. The organized food and beverage market is about 5 % of the total food and beverage market. In order to analyze the role and impact of demographic and psychographic variables in the growth and development of organized food and grocery retail formats the study hypothesized seven variables to cause significant influence namely consumer age, gender, family size, occupation, income, education and psychographic variables. The psychographic variables included activities, opinions, interests, values and lifestyles. Various statistical tools such as Mean, Standard Deviation and Chi Square tests were employed to test the hypothesis. The results are summarized below:-

* 20 % of the consumers surveyed have been shopping at the retail outlet for less than 1 year, 58 % for 3 years, 15 % for more than 3 years and 7 % of the consumers are in the habit of changing retail outlets as per their convenience. About 18 % of the respondents visited retail outlets once in a week, 34 % frequented twice a month and 48 % visited the retail outlet once a month. These results show a significant level of consumer preferences towards modern food and grocery retail formats.

* Respondents below 35 years of age frequented the hypermarkets and supermarkets more than other age groups indicating that they desired a lot more variety of branded and qualitative products.

* Consumer's gender does not have any significant influence on the type of retail outlet.

* The family size has a significant impact on the type of food and grocery outlet chosen by consumers. As the family size increases, consumers purchase from the nearest convenience store or supermarket.

* Demographic variable with respect to consumer's occupation levels have significant impact on the type of food and grocery retail outlet.

* Consumer's growing income levels and availability of larger disposable income have also influenced their choice of food and grocery retail outlet.

* Customer's increasing knowledge, awareness and literacy levels have significant influence on types of food and grocery retail outlets.

* The psychographic analysis of the respondents resulted in the finding of four clusters namely hedonic (16.2 percent), utilitarian (34.8 percent), conventional (28.2 percent) and socialistic (20.8 percent) type of customers. The study indicated that consumer's psychographic dynamics plays an important role in their choice of food and grocery outlet.

* Consumer trends in India are changing rapidly as consumers are increasingly looking for vast variety of quality products and services, pleasant ambience, self-service, and store services like assistance with baggage, promotions and credit facilities among others.

Another empirical study conducted in Davangere[32] regarding consumer expectation and perception of fast food outlets revealed the following insights:-

* Consumers find that in modern times cooking has ceased to be a productive chore especially for consumers with busy lifestyle and dual income households

* Sociological, ecological, technological factors and market perspectives have contributed to the growth in fast food consumption

* The low price of fast food has made the business reasonably immune to periods of recession

* The fast food industry comprises of a large number of unorganized operators who are set up at locations easily accessible to consumers

* Fast food consumption decision is driven by impulsive consumer behavior which explains why in spite of being aware about the possible unhealthy prospects of fast food consumers still prefer fast food.

2.3 Contextual Review

A contextual review of existing literature on cultural dynamics, ethnic identity, consumer behavior, food psychology and fast food trends follows.

2.3.1 Ethnic Identity and Consumer Behavior

A study in 2004 by Jung Xu[33] et al. on ethnic identity and socialization factors analyzed culture specific consumption behavior. The study identifies significant challenges and opportunities for marketers caused by the ethnic and cultural factors influencing adolescent consumer behavior in culturally diverse America, specifically pertaining to the Asian American young adults. The salient aspects of this study are given below:-

* The population of Asian American young adults is growing rapidly and their purchasing power is increasing exponentially.

* The period of emerging adulthood, from 18 to 25 years of age, is a critical phase in an individuals' identity development process. Ethnic young adults, in addition, develop their ethnic identity which becomes an integral part of their social and self identity.

* As many young adults start new households they gain independence and financial responsibility and begin to make long term decisions regarding their occupational preferences and personal life. They not only acquire significant buying power in the marketplace but also develop new consumption patterns which may influence their decisions later in life.

* The degree to which an individual conforms to the norms of a new culture is known as acculturation. Acculturation is multidimensional including parameters such as cultural identity, language usage, religion and social activities of the individual (Hui et al., 1992; Jun et al., 1993). The attitudes and behavioral patterns of the parents of ethnic adolescent groups influence the strength of the adolescent's sense of ethnic identity.

* The degree to which an individual's ethnic identification conforms to his or her original culture is known as cultural identification and it represents the individual's sense of belonging to an ethnic group.

· An adolescent's consumption related attitudes and behaviors are strongly influenced by the peer group with whom the individuals interact frequently.

2.3.2 Changes in Consumer Behavior in India

Himadri Roy Chaudhuri and Sitanath Majumdar[34] have drawn upon existing literature to discuss aspects of conspicuous consumption and the transitional socio-economic background of India. The study reveals the followings:-

* It is the evolution of capitalism that has dictated contemporary philosophy, cultural practices, art and literature (Jameson, 1983).

* Production has lost its privileged status in culture and consumption is becoming the means through which individuals define their self image. “It is also in this (re)presentation of self-image(s) through one's consumption that the consumer begins to conceive “the self” as a marketable entity, to be customized and produced, to be positioned and promoted, as a product” (Firat et al. 1995, p. 42).

* The importance of self and social images has brought about a phenomenon where products are evaluated as symbols and are consumed based on their symbolic content (Zaltman and Wallendorf 1979).

* Consumers no longer purchase the product just for consuming the product; they consume the symbolic meaning of the products and the image that goes along with it (Cova, 1996). Consumption has in fact become a means of self realization and identification (Firat, 1991).

* There is empirical evidence that consumers tend to adopt a more conforming mentality or social conformity to the majority of their membership group, subculture or societal micro-groups (Festinger, 1954; Cova, 1996).

* Consumers world over have been observed to flaunt success, money, self and possession. The author posits that the true dynamics of this phenomenon are evident only when one takes changing socio-economic conditions and other consumption patterns into consideration.

* Though the Indian social structure, class behavior and economic resource distribution are different than that in western societies, the recent socio-economic transitions have significantly changed Indian consumption habits.

* Three distinct phases in consumer culture in India are identified as

1. Gandhian philosophy of simple living dominated the pre-independence era in India.

2. Socialistic ideology of community living and self reliance were characteristic of the post independence era until liberalization in 1991.

3. Consumerism or the consumption culture has become highly popular in post liberalized India since 1991.

* Certain products in India such as household appliances, toiletries and packaged foods are becoming crucial indices of upward mobility rather than indicators of wealth (Mankekar, 1999).

* The forerunners of social and cultural change in India is its middle class or volume consumer who are embracing rationality, science and secularism, leading India out of its tradition, superstition and ignorance (Sarkar, 1983). The middle class is also an active element in India's transition from feudalism to an industry based modern society (Sen, 1988).

* The purchase and display of foreign or branded goods and services appears to be increasingly associated with a higher quality of life in India (Monteiro, 1998; Ostella and Ostella, 2000). Ostella and Ostella (2000) also point out significant changes in consumption behaviors and aspirations amongst all social groups.

* One of the characteristics of the contemporary Indian middle class is their appetite for global culture, and their pursuit of western lifestyles, possessions and values (Gupta, 2000; Lakha, 2000).

* Consumerism has been further propelled in India by the impressive growth of media since the inception of private cable television in the 1990s. According to Mankekar (1999), these modern television channels have “mainly highlighted desirable upper middle class lifestyles, thereby legitimizing consumerism, exhibitionism and material wants”. The television acts as a mediator of consumption practices and culture penetration (Hirschman, 1988). The Indian consumers' exposure to television channels has resulted in increasing transference of consumption practices, lifestyles and purchase of brands which is considered new, modern and advanced (Varman and Vikas, 2005). Modern day Indian movies and magazines have also been dubbed to promote material possessions and consumerism.

* The Indian society is in the midst of a major socio-cultural change, moving form the traditional collective society (Hofstede, 1984) to the increasingly evident individualistic society (Sinha and Tripathi, 1994). The empowerment of women, mass media penetration, changing consumption patterns and higher levels of education in the middle class are evidence of the evolving social order in India.

2.3.3 Food Psychology

Price, income and information are important factors determining the consumption choices that people make, but they are not the only factors in the food consumption choices of consumers. A study[35] incorporating findings from behavioral economics, food marketing and psychology proposed the following insights into how people make food decisions.

* People have problems of self-control when choosing food either because of preference, of immediate self-gratification or under the influence of a more primal need such as hunger.

* People easily give in to default options when choosing food reflecting an asymmetry in their evaluation of gains in comparison to loss.

* Experimental studies point out that consumer behavior is anomalous where individuals are willing to pay much less to acquire an item than they are willing to accept to part with it. For example even when people know that French fries are unhealthy they may find themselves choosing to consume it as it has been their default option easily and quickly available in a location close to them.

* People categorize income through mental accounting which explains why food coupons are more effective at raising food spending than an equal amount of cash.

* Food decisions are often based on emotional thought processing rather than rational thinking. People tend to choose less healthy food over healthier food due to impulsive behavior based on how the food is presented or even because of the stress levels they are experiencing.

* External factors such as noise levels, lighting, size and shape of food and food containers influence the choice of food, the amount consumed and the perceived amount of consumption.

2.3.4 Fast Food Trends

A study[36] in 2004 by Hayden Stewart and Steven T. Yen applies a unique censored equation system approach to identify how key economic and demographic variables impact the expenditure of a household on the choice of outlet in their consumption of food away from home. The study combined the findings with projections on how the population is changing in the United States. The results suggested that to the extent that consumption and expenditure are correlated, the relative strength of the full service segment is likely to grow more than that of fast food outlets. The following points were noted in the study:-

* Contrary to popular belief, research indicates that nutritional quality of fast food is not poorer than that of meals and snacks traditionally consumed at full service restaurants, although the two types of foods have different nutritional characteristics (Lin & Frazao, 1999).

* Food away from home is dominated by the full service and fast food restaurants with 40.4 percent and 38.3 percent of the food service industry in 2003. Food away from home is generally less healthy than food prepared at home. Full service meals and snacks tend to be higher in fat, cholesterol and sodium while fast foods are higher in saturated fats.

* The lawsuits, unfavorable media focus and researchers' inclination to link increasing incidence of obesity and ill health with fast food has arrested the recent increase in the share of fast food in the food service market. Since 1995 the full service restaurant companies have slightly improved their share of the food service market.

* Environmental changes such as rising incomes, the aging population and smaller household sizes favor the increased demand for the kinds of services and varied menus traditionally available at full service restaurants.

* Both fast food and full service restaurants provide respite for the person in charge of cooking in a household. Households with higher income spend more on fast food and full service restaurants, but spending at full service restaurants has shown to be most responsive to change in income (McCracken & Brandt, 1987; Byrne et al., 1998).

* Fast food consumption is more in households where the person in charge of cooking works longer hours in the labor force (Byrne et al., 1998).

* Households managed by older people consume lesser fast food and some ethnic minority population is less likely to consume both fast food and full service food.

According to the Cygnus Business Consulting and Research[37], India has the highest per capita food retail outlet in the world with approximately 5.5 outlets per 1000 people. A huge proportion of the food retail in India is the unorganized retail outlets. The Indian food processing industry is worth more than Rs.1280 billion and is one of the largest industries in the country and ranks fifth in terms of production, consumption, export and expected growth. The Indian government polices have given various concessions and incentives to the processed food industry such as income tax deduction for 10 years for fruits and vegetables preserving and packaging industry, excise duty waiver on dairy, poultry and fish products machinery and the establishment of food parks. The article points out that eating out or food away from home has become a way of life. Indians spend about US$ 5 Billion a year on food away from home, double of the amount spent a decade ago and in just 5 years time it is expected to double to US$ 10 Billion.

Indian customers are not only demanding value for money but also quality, variety and service in their food away from home options. Recent amendments in India's FDI policies to allow 51% FDI in Indian retailing sector for single brand retailing encourages companies such as McDonalds and Pizza Hut to expand operations in the country. The Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005 consolidated eight existing laws relating to food processing, food safety and food standards in India seeking to fix scientific standards for food articles and regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import thereby ensuring the availability of safe and wholesome food for consumption. The bill seeks to establish Food Safety and Standards Authority of India as an apex body to look into the affairs of the food and food processing industry.

A study by Vinnie Jauhari[38] exploring the growth prospects of fast food in India revealed the following information:-

* There is no Indian fast food chain that operates nationally though there are several Indian fast food chains that have strong regional presence.

* The MNC-operated fast food chains have entered the Indian market since liberalization in early 90's. These MNC-operated fast food outlets are churning more business than local fast food outlets. Nirulas, a home grown fast food outlet since 1934, has a turnover Rs.100 crore compared with global giant McDonald's turnover of Rs.125 crore. Global players Dominos and Pizza Hut had a turnover of more than Rs.60 crore while local Pizza Hut could manage only Rs.25-30 crore turnover (Gupta, 2002).

* The MNC-operated fast food chains use a mix of imported and local procurement of raw materials. Stringent standards of quality check and increased coordination in the buyer supplier relationship ensures the integrity of food products, its freshness and multinational value. McDonald's Quality Inspection Programme involves quality checks at over 20 different points in their cold chain supply system.

* Franchising is a popular method of business growth strategy amongst many MNC fast food companies. McDonalds is recognized as one of the most successful franchising company with about 70% of global operations through the franchise system.

* To cater to the Indian tastes the MNC fast food outlets provide a modified menu by including food items like burgers and pizzas with Indian spice flavors. The MNC fast food companies are also becoming more sensitive to the religious and cultural sentiments of the Indian populace. For example, during the Hindu festival week of “Navratras” McDonalds offers a purely vegetarian menu and beef is not offered in any McDonalds in India.

The conceptual review analyzed major concepts in the fields of cultural studies, globalization, consumer behavior and fast food. Empirical evidence was reviewed for intercultural studies and international food consumption. Contextual review covered existing work on cultural dynamics, ethnic identity, consumer behavior, fast food psychology and fast food trends.

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