Exploration of local food selection in Lukang, Taiwan: Application of the Means-End Chain Theory
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The study focuses on local food specialties in Lukang, Taiwan. The town of Lukang offers many local food specialties featuring an abundance of seafood and teacakes. Restaurants, snack bars, street vendors, and cake shops provide tourists and locals a diverse purchasing and dining experience. Limited consumer behavior information is available with regard to the purchase and consumption of local food specialties. Research-based studies are needed to obtain tourists‘ and locals‘ perceptions about Lukang‘s food and how they make their food selection decisions. The first phase of this study sought to examine perspectives of local public officials, historians, and shop owners toward the town‘s food specialties and food tourism. Six participants were selected through snowball sampling. In-depth open-ended interviews were conducted and videotaped in June and July, 2009. The second phase of this study sought to discover how tourists and local residents decide on the food they select at cake shops and snack bars. The Means-End Chain theory was adopted because it can explain ―how product attributes facilitate consumers‘ achievement of desired end-states of being (or values).‖ The laddering interview technique is used to explore the underlying motives and needs of consumers. Laddering interviews were carried out in July and December, 2009 with 18 tourists and 24 local residents through convenience sampling. The in-depth personal interviews with local public officials, historians, and shop owners (n=6) indicated that local food has a positive impact on the overall tourist experience and indeed is important to tourism development in Lukang, Taiwan. It appeared that the concept of authenticity could be applied to local food; especially with regard to teacakes. The findings of the Means-End Laddering interviews revealed consumers‘ (n=42) perceptions about selection of local food specialties. At the attribute level, ―well-established brand,‖ ―authenticity,‖ ―taste,‖ ―healthful food,‖ ―hygiene/cleanliness,‖ ―popularity,‖ ―product variety,‖ and ―freshness‖ were the factors most often mentioned. These attributes linked to the consequences ―enjoy eating food,‖ ―thoughtful gift-giving,‖ ―worry free,‖ ―try something new,‖ ―quality guaranteed,‖ ―save money,‖ ―more options,‖ ―physical well-being,‖ and ―desire to purchase.‖ ―Enjoyment,‖ ―health/safety,‖ ―good relationships with others,‖ ―novelty,‖ and ―nostalgia‖ were the personal values most often identified. The findings suggest that local food selection behavior between tourists and local residents differ particularly with regard to teacake purchasing behavior. The findings of this study provide insights that can benefit local tourism development by focusing on Lukang‘s food specialties.