Australian consumers' perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours toward a novel food: An evaluation using hemp food as an exemplar

Debra Metcalf

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This research sought to evaluate the drivers and barriers of the acceptance of hemp food, produced from the Cannabis sativa plant, as an exemplar of novel food acceptance in the Australian population. A mixed-method qual-QUANT approach under a pragmatic framework was employed, and the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) was the overriding theory for the research. Items consistent with TPB were developed in Phase I of the study from interviews with 14 participants. Highlights of Phase I include a perceived association by consumers between hemp food and the psychoactive properties usually attributed to other cannabis uses. Phase II consisted of an online questionnaire disseminated to a representative sample of the Australian population (n = 2354) incorporating the TPB measure alongside additional psychometric instruments for food neophobia, the big five personality constructs, sensation seeking, and food choice. Food neophobia, openness to experience, and sensation seeking behaved for hemp food as for other novel foods, whereas extraversion and several facets of food choice did not. Questions designed to determine current hemp food consumption were also included, revealing that awareness of hemp food and consumer uptake was low at the time of the study. An evaluation was conducted to discern the attributes of early adopters, and an unexpected finding under the theory of adoption or diffusion of a new product suggests diffusion of hemp food throughout the Australian population has already substantially occurred. In the final phase a meta-inference of the findings, consistent with the pragmatic framework, provided a deeper understanding of the findings from the two previous phases. The major finding from the research indicates that consumers are misinformed about the attributes of hemp food and confused about the differences between hemp seed oil and cannabidiol (CBD) oil. This complicates the acceptance of hemp food because for some consumers the misinformation increases acceptance. Consumer acceptance is likely to increase for some consumers through education that promotes an accurate perception of hemp food but may reduce for others because of the incorrect perception that hemp food has similar attributes to CBD. The solution may be a disassociation of hemp food, and particularly hemp oil, from all other uses of cannabis. The main beneficiary of the research is the Australian hemp food industry; however, the TPB approach employed in this study will extrapolate to research of acceptance of other novel foods. This approach comprises evaluating positive and negative attitudes as discrete entities and may have implications for all research where TPB is employed.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Saliba, Anthony, Principal Supervisor
  • Wiener, Karl, Co-Supervisor
  • Sugden, Nicole, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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