Exploring the functional mealtime associations of older adults through consumer segmentation and a means-end chain approach

Louise C. den Uijl*, Gerry Jager, Kees de Graaf, Stefanie Kremer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Senior consumers are a rapidly growing and highly heterogeneous part of the world's population. This group does not always meet its recommended protein intake, which can negatively impact on their physical functioning and quality of life. To date, little is known about their motivations to consume protein-rich meals. In the current study, we therefore aim to identify consumer segments within the group of vital community-dwelling older adults on the basis of mealtime functionality (for example ‘I eat because I'm hungry’, or ‘I eat because it is cosy’). To this end, we first conducted an online survey to identify these functional mealtime expectations of older consumers (study I, n = 398, 158 males, mean age 65.8 (y) ± 5.9 (SD)). To obtain further insights regarding mealtime functionality and proteins/protein enrichment, laddering interviews were conducted with a subgroup of the segmentation study participants (study II, n = 40, 20 males, mean age 66.9 (y) ± 4.8 (SD)). The results of the online survey showed three consumer clusters: cosy socialisers, physical nutritioners, and thoughtless rewarders. Thoughtless rewarders tend to eat without having explicit thoughts about it, they eat for the reward, and score highest on environmental awareness. Both the segmentation and the in-depth interviews showed that, for the cosy socialisers, the cosiness and social function of a meal are important motivators, whereas for the physical nutritioners the focus is more on the health and nutrient aspects of a meal. For cosy socialisers, protein enrichment can best be achieved through addition of protein-rich ingredients, whereas, for physical nutritioners, addition of protein powder is preferred. These results provide practical guidelines for the development of protein-rich meals and communication strategies tailored to the needs of specific vital community-dwelling older subgroups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-622
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Laddering interviews
  • Mealtime functionality
  • Means-end chain method
  • Protein enrichment
  • Senior consumer segmentation


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