Demand for selected classes of convenience food in the United States

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The focus of this research was the problem of identifying the economic and demographic factors that determine household expenditure for convenience food in the United States. A major objective was to measure, for various classes of convenience food, the response of expenditures to changes in demand determinants so that food expenditure profiles can be simulated for households with different characteristics and constraints. Another major objective was to determine the effect of the meal preparer's value of time on household use of convenience food.

The work of others on similar models of food demand has been extended to include analysis of the effects of the sex and employment status (market-orientation) of the meal preparer, the value of the meal preparer's time, household size, income and age-sex composition. Other factors in the models include region, race, urban setting and season. The functions were specified from a theoretical model developed from the theory of the household production function.

Foods used by households as reported in the 1977-78 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey were divided into classes of nonconvenience, basic convenience, complex convenience and manufactured convenience food. Nonconvenience foods are raw, unprocessed foods or ingredient foods. Basic convenience foods are single ingredient foods with limited culinary expertise embodied, usually providing a type of preservation convenience. Complex convenience foods are multiple ingredients, highly prepared foods. Manufactured convenience foods include products which have no home prepared counterpart.

For the three convenience classes, nonincome-earning female meal preparers all had positive elasticities of the value of time. Except for the basic convenience food model, the income-earning female meal preparers had positive value of time elasticities. The nonmarketoriented female meal preparers had negative elasticities of value of time in the nonconvenience class.

The income elasticity for all food classes ranged from 0. 03in the nonconvenience food expenditure model to 0.08 in the complex convenience food model. The significance of statistical tests on the range of income elasticities verifies that the food categories investigated are neither inferior nor luxury goods, and that demand models for all food at home that ignore the effects of the value of time would overestimate the elasticity of expenditure with respect to income.