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Positioning Functional Foods for Sports Performance - A Case Study: A food producer's communication with external stakeholder groups

Increased consumer and professional interest in healthy foods and beverages, coupled with recent advances in food science technology, have seen food-producing organisations create and market food products claiming to offer physiological benefits beyond their basic nutritional value. These functional foods have sparked considerable public debate despite growing in popularity and availability. To date, empirical research on functional foods has focused mostly on consumer and medical professional perspectives. However, this case study focuses on the perspective of the food-producing organisation. In this case study I examine how one food-producing organisation tries to balance the tensions it faces in developing and producing functional foods. My interest is in how organisational assumptions affect research and development decisions, and subsequent communication with external stakeholders. The functional foods are beverages which can aid sports performance. The external stakeholders are to primarily be sportspeople (meaning highly competitive sportspeople and elite athletes), but I also include other relevant external stakeholder groups such as coaches, and health professionals. The data collection comprises semi-structured one-on-one interviews with organisational members involved in research and development, nutrition claims, marketing, and branding; together, with a review of secondary organisational information taken from websites and advertisements. The interpretive thematic analysis shows that this food-producing organisation made specific organisational assumptions about health, functional foods, sportspeople, and other consumer groups. The findings demonstrate that the organisation juggles multiple identities at a product, brand and organisational level in order to connect with the broadest range of stakeholders possible. This creates tensions concerning where the focus for product development, branding, and other communication should reside, which have financial and legislative consequences; in turn potentially affecting organisational reputation. One implication of this research is that in trying to connect with too broad a range of stakeholders the organisation may start losing the brand credibility it has thus far built up with specific consumer groups, such as sportspeople, and compromise the respect of professional interest groups and expert stakeholders.
Type of thesis
Johnson, V. (2011). Positioning Functional Foods for Sports Performance - A Case Study: A food producer’s communication with external stakeholder groups (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5608
University of Waikato
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