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A far more complex set of factors are now driving food consumption patterns in high-income countries than economists have traditionally analyzed in demand studies. Food consumers have moved up Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid from satisfying basic physiological needs. If the traditional focus was on quantity demands for homogenous commodities, attention needs to increasingly be given to the demand for quality-differentiated food products. Although the income elasticity in terms of quantity may be low, the elasticity for many food attributes, such as nutrition and health, safety, convenience, and diversity, are quite high. Where people buy food, the form in which they buy and where they eat it are all changing. To simply distinguish between food consumed at home and away from home is no longer adequate. Rapid demographic and socioeconomic changes, such as the massive entrance of women into the workforce and increasing multi-ethnicity, are a fundamental driver of food buying and dietary patterns. Research needs to give more attention to the demand for differentiated, frequently branded food products, to disaggregation of the population, and to a recognition that traditional demographic factors may have limited explanatory power. A specific research study is given as an example of each. The single quality-differentiation factor currently receiving the most attention is genetic modification. The difference in the general consumer acceptance of biotechnology and genetically modified foods between the United States and Europe is dramatic. Kevin Lancaster's consumer model can be utilized to more fully understand this difference, especially to distinguish between a difference in the perception of the risks and benefits of the technology and in the underlying consumer preferences for risk avoidance or naturalness in food.


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