Who Likes What? Intra-household Food Preferences in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

Who Likes What? Intra-household Food Preferences in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

Published: 2022.03.18
Accepted: 2022.03.18
37
Demonstrator
Department of Agricultural Economics, Myanmar
Professor
Department of Agricultural Economics Yezin Agricultural University, Myanmar
Research Fellow
Department of Agricultural Economics, Yezin Agricultural University, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar
Demonstrator
Department of Agricultural Economics, Myanmar
Assistant Lecturer
Department of Agricultural Economics, Yezin Agricultural University
Assistant Lecturer
Yezin Agricultural University, Myanmar
Demonstrators Department of Agricultural Economics, Yezin Agricultural University, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

ABSTRACT

Household food consumption system, eating styles and habits are directly related with inter-household food preferences on individual food items. Age and gender are the factors affecting individual food preferences which have significant impacts on health and welfare at different stages of life. In Myanmar, food preferences are still needed to be investigated for better nutrition and health. The study was coped with the findings of the current perception, practices and contribution levels of preferences to the main food items (rice, meat, fish & seafood, pulses, eggs, vegetables and fruits) in three townships in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The household survey was conducted with 90 selected households to collect information about the intra-household food preferences level on main food items in November, 2021. The 3-point Likert Scale was applied for consumer preference level. The majority of respondents were from the urban area. Most respondents were females who are the main cook for household members and know their preferences on food items. Based on age and gender, there were eight consumer groups to reveal their food preference level on seven main food items. Among them, adult male and female groups (59-19 years) were the most common consumer groups which took 27% and 40% compared with other groups. According to the households’ basic perceptions and practices for food consumption, more than 80% were satisfied with the quality and quantity of foods. In addition, more than half of the households (60%) had a good practice of checking nutritional value before buying and the remaining (40%) were not checking at all. According to consumers’ preference levels on main food items by age and gender groups, the majority of adolescent males (18-10 years) preferred most rice and meat which is a healthy eating habit, since that age group become the major workforce for the country. Fruits and vegetables were preferred mostly by adolescent females (18-10 years) and young female children group (9-2 years). However, both the eldest and youngest consumer groups had the lowest preference level on six selected food items except for fruits which are not so good habit for the healthy food system. This is because both these age and gender groups are sensitive to health. The key message of current eating styles, habits and its effects for the future of the country’s development is a critical issue for nutrition and public health sector in Myanmar. The current preference level on meat, fish and seafood, pulses, vegetables and fruits, especially for the younger age and gender groups should be improved through nutrition sensitive public education programs by television channels, radio program, commercial advertisements which should really attract the consumers’ attention and could help get the idea for changing the current preference and habits of consuming important food items. Continuously, it is better to pay attention the public expenditure allocation into the nationwide nutrition program and food system including the essential requirements for school children so that the future generation would be healthy, energetic and brilliant for the country development. The further researches on food system would be recommended for evidence based nutrition promised policy formulation of sustainable healthy food system of the Myanmar people.

Keywords: Food preference level, age, gender, health and nutrition, main food items.

       INTRODUCTION  

During these years, eating habits and choices of food have been changing due to several factors such as socio-economic characteristics, food and commodity prices, disease outbreak, and availability of food. The study of per capita rice consumption in Myanmar (Theingi Myint et al., 2016) showed that the average per capita rice consumption amount has been decreasing in every state and region. The per capita edible oil study in Nay Pyi Taw (Thi Thi Soe et al., 2021) has also proved that individual consumption amount on edible oil food items have been changing compared with the former years.

Individual food preferences within households can be quite different from one age group to another. Generally, food preferences stream from the earlier stages of the life (Nicklaus & Schwartz, 2019). However, they could be the same until adulthood (Nicklaus et al., 2005). They could also be developed and changed at different stages of lifespan (Anzman-Frasca et al., 2018). In addition to age group, food choices can differ according to gender. Many studies reported that women are more interested in food-related issues, have better knowledge of food and nutrition (Pingitore et al., 1997Neumark-Sztainer et al., 1999Davy et al., 2006). Generally, women tend to choose to consume higher intake of fruits and vegetables, higher intake of dietary fiber which are good eating habits for health (Wardle et al., 2004Arganini et al., 2012).

Intra-household food preferences can have strong effects on household members’ health and active life. It becomes a determinant food priority and food choice which are main pillars for eating habits, behavior and public health promotion within the country. Which level people prefer to the main food items become interesting in Myanmar. However, there is no research on food preferences of individual household members and is still required for upgrading nationwide health and nutrition system and for having greater public health across the country. This intra-household food preferences study on main food items in Nay Pyi Taw was a preliminary study to investigate the individual perception and practices of food consumption and to know the level of food preferences on main food items by different gender (male and female) and age groups (above 60 years, 59-19 years, 18-10 years and 9-2 years age groups).

Objectives of the study

  1. To investigate the perception and practices of food consumption of selected households in the study area
  2. To determine the intra household food preferences of main food items among the household members in the study area

METHODOLOGY

Selection of the study area

Nay Pyi Taw was selected as the preliminary study area where a wide range of household clusters and social strata including government staff, private company staff, farmers, and others could be found. Different types of households such as urban and rural households can be found so that the whole study can be representative. In addition, the availability of food in Nay Pyi Taw is quite stable resulting from good logistic and transportation services and an array of food items could be bought in both wet markets and supermarkets at any time. Generally, food prices in Nay Pyi Taw are normal and high price fluctuations could be rarely seen.

Sampling method

This intra-household food preferences study was completely based on primary data. Household interviews were conducted in 3 townships in Nay Pyi Taw by using a complete set of questionnaires to cover the individual objective.  The respondents from 90 selected households were inquired about the intra-household food preferences level on main food items, namely, rice, meat, fish and seafood, pulses, eggs, vegetables and fruits for the 270 household members in total. In the study, the 3-point Likert Scale was used in order to know the preference level such as most preferred, fairly preferred and low preferred food items. Descriptive analysis was used to cluster different age and gender groups and to calculate the level of preference on main food items. The ratio in this study represented within four age group including 60 years (senior adult group), between 59 and 19 years (adult group), between 18 and 10 years (adolescent group), and between 9 years and 2 years (child group) for specific gender (male and female). In total, there were eight consumer groups who revealed their preferences level on main food items. The main interest of the study was to find out which age group and gender is the most and the least preferred among the food commodities because it becomes one of the factors influencing households’ ability to acquire food and nutrition.

Data collection and data analysis

This study was conducted with the residents of Zeyarthiri, Ottarathiri and Pobbathiri Townships in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar in November, 2021. Purposive random sampling method was used since respondents were based on the fact that they are the main household members who manage food for the household members. Face- to-face interview method was applied by using the structured questionnaire package in order to get the information about household demographic profile, perception and practices of food consumption and food preferences level. The collected data were digitally loaded to Microsoft Excel and analyzed to obtain the related results.  

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The basic demographic information of respondents from 90 selected households in the study area is shown in Table 1. Around 26% of the respondents were living in the rural areas whereas the remaining 74% of those was living in the urban areas. In the total respondents (90), the majority of the respondents were female who are mainly responsible people for preparing food and who always know household members’ individual preferences in most households. The total number of female respondents was 84 (93%) and the total number of male respondents was 6 (7%). Therefore, the gender ratio (female and male ratio) of respondents was 14.

There were 90 sample respondents in this intra-household food preferences study for the total household members (270). The average household member in an individual household was 3. The total female and male household members ratio based on 90 selected households was 1.45. Then, eight specific consumer groups were divided from 270 household members to find out the different preferences on seven main food items. Within these consumer groups, adult male and female consumer groups were the major consumer group, and their ratio was 40% and 27% respectively in total household members. The following proportion were senior adult female group (9%), adolescent female group (6%), male children group (6%), adolescent male group and senior adult male group (4% each) and female children group (4%) as a sequence of age and gender groups (Table 2).

The information about basic perception and practices of household food consumption in the study area is described in Table 3. Households’ satisfactions on the quality and quantity of food they are eating as a daily diet were diverse for a wide range of reasons. To start with, the proportion of selected households who are satisfied with the quality of food was 87%, while the remaining proportion of household, 13% - felt unsatisfied with the food quality of their diets. Unsatisfied household members with the quality of food consumption provided the reasons that the food they eat contains chemical residue and pesticide residue leading to improper health condition in the long term. In addition, they had only low-income rate, but better-quality food costs higher, therefore, they had been eating low quality food at a cheaper price. In terms of quantity of food, almost 89% of households were satisfied with it and there was only 11% of households which are not satisfied with the food quantity. The main reason of being unsatisfied with the quantity of food was limited income for food cost. The practices of individual households before buying food items also differ from each other. In this study, 60% of total households had a good practice of buying food items and they always check for nutritional value before buying the food commodities. However, the other 40% of selected households never checked the nutritional value on food items before buying in the markets or supermarkets.

High preference means the sampled household members have great willingness to consume individual food items in their daily diet. The highest preference level within eight consumer groups on seven main food items are as shown in Figure 1.

To be specific by age and gender groups, the consumer group which had the greatest preference on rice and meat is the adolescent male (18-10 years) consumer group, with 58% preferring rice and 67% percent preferring meat compared with other age groups and gender. The adult male group (59-19 years) had the highest preference level on fish and seafood items and the share was 30% percent. In fish and seafood items, it includes not only fresh and dry fish but also prawns, crabs, octopus, and other marine products (Figure 1).

For pulses which is an alternative protein source, senior adult male consumer group (above 60 years) had the highest preference level and over 45% of them consumed several types of pulses in their daily diet as the most preferred food item. The most common pulses within the households in the study area were chickpea, lentil, lablab bean, garden pea and peanut. More than half of male children (9-2 years), 67%, preferred eggs to other main food items, and they had the highest level of preference on eggs within other age and gender groups. On the other hand, for vegetable items, the adult female consumer group (59-19 years) had the highest level of preference, and with 56% in total. For fruits, female children group (9-2 years) preference level had the highest and the proportion was 55%.  This means females are willing to consume more vegetables and fruits based on their own preference (Figure 1). The top five consuming fruits in this household survey were bananas, apples, oranges, guavas and pineapples.

According to the results of the highest consumer preference on main food items within eight consumer groups in Nay Pyi Taw, rice and meat were most preferred by adolescent male while fish and seafood was highly preferred by adult males. Pulses were most consumed base on preference by senior adult males. Eggs were found to be the most pleasurable to eat by the male children group. Vegetables were most consumed by adult females while fruits were most preferred by female children.

The data series of aggregated male and female preferences has shown in Figure 2. Male consumers had the greatest preference on most of the food items and their proportions were always higher than female consumers’ proportions. For example, 40% of male consumers had the highest level of preference on rice while there were only 20% for female consumers. Likewise, the proportion of the highest preference level on meat was 32% for male and 16% for female. For fish and seafood, pulses and eggs, a similar trend could be occurred and the proportions of male on these items were 24%, 25% and 41% while the proportions of female on these items were 21%, 18% and 31% respectively. However, the remaining two items, vegetables and fruits, more female consumers had the highest preference than male and their contributions were 52% and 34%. Overall, male consumer groups had the highest level of preference on rice, meat, fish and seafood, pulses and eggs food items while female consumer groups had the highest preference level on vegetables and fruits. The result is consistent with the finding that women generally consume more fruits and vegetables (Wardle et al., 2004, Arganini et al., 2012).

Fair preference means the selected household members have medium demand for consuming the food items based on taste and texture. The fair preference level within eight consumer groups on the seven main food items are as shown in Figure 3. Generally, females fairly preferred more food items than males. This finding is the same with the finding that the more women tend to overestimate their body mass and decrease their meals compared to men (Uccula and Nuvoli, 2017).

Female consumer groups at different age range had fair preference level for four food items, namely, meat, pulses, eggs and fruits. Adult females (59-19 years) had fair preference on meat and their proportion within the groups was 68%. For both pulses and eggs, adolescent female group (18-10 years) had the fair preference level, and its share took 59% and 65% respectively. For fruits, senior adult female group (above 60 years) consumed with fair preference and the proportion was 61% within the whole age and gender groups (Figure 3).

At the same time, male consumer groups at different age range had fair preference level for three food items, namely, rice, fish & seafood and vegetables. Senior adult males (above 60) preferred rice at medium level for consuming and its proportion took 64% percent. Fish and seafood were chosen by adolescent males (18-10 years) and the proportion was 75%. For vegetables, more than half of adolescent males (18-10 years) preferred moderately and the proportion was 58% percent (Figure 3). 

According to the results of the fair consumer preference on main food items within eight consumer groups in Nay Pyi Taw, rice was fairly preferred by senior adult males. Meat was fairly consumed by adult female group. Fish and seafood were selected as the fair preferable food items by the adolescent male group. Pulses and eggs had the fair preference level among adolescent female group. Fruits were stated as the fairly preferred food item by senior female consumer group. However, adolescent male described they had the fair preference level on consuming vegetables.

Low preference means the surveyed household members have low demand for eating food items in the long-term. The lowest preference level within eight consumer groups on seven main food items are as shown in Figure 4. In general, the children consumer group had the lowest preference level on rice, fish and seafood, pulses and vegetable while senior male group had the lowest preference level on meat and eggs.

Based on the survey results, young children group (9-2 years) had the lowest level of preference on most important food items in Myanmar. For rice, 45% percent of young female children stated that they preferred rice at the lowest level within eight consumer groups. For fish and seafood, pulses and vegetables, the majority of young male children had the lowest preference level, and the proportions are 47%, 50% and 53% respectively within eight consumer groups. On the other hand, the majority of senior male group (above 60 years) selected meat item as the lowest level of their own preference and the share was 36%. For eggs, the proportion of household members who does not like eating eggs was quite low. For vegetable, adolescent males (18-10 years) least preferred consuming that food item and the proportion was 42%. Therefore, the youngest and eldest age and gender group had the lowest preference level on main food items except fruits (Figure 4).

CONCLUSION AND POLICY RECOMMENDATION

In the study, three main preference levels, the highest preference level, the fair preference level and the lowest preference level on individual food items were diverse at various proportions within eight consumer groups. Based on the household survey in Nay Pyi Taw, more male consumers at different age groups had the highest preference level of main food items in Myanmar except for fruits and vegetables compared to the female groups. The majority of adolescent males preferred mostly rice and meat which are a good trend for the country, since that age group is the most active and energetic groups compared with other groups and become the major workforce of the country in the near future. Rice contains high amount of carbohydrates for energy and meat contains high amount of protein for strength. Fruits and vegetables were preferred most by adolescent females and young female children group. This is because more women generally care about their physical appearance and are more prone to have a diet plan as they perceive themselves needing to lose weight (Pingitore et al., 1997; Neumark-Sztainer et al., 1999; Davy et al., 2006) and fruits and vegetables contain low amount of carbohydrates and are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber content.

On the other hand, both the eldest and youngest consumer groups had the lowest preference level on most food items except for fruits. Although rice is the main carbohydrate source for young people in Myanmar, their current eating habits and low preference are enough compared with international eating styles and habits. For other food items as fish and seafood, pulses and vegetables, their limited preference has a life-long impact for both physical and mental growth and development. This is because these food items are rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals which all are necessary for growth and development process at later stages of life. In Myanmar, the availability of these food items is affluent resulting from long costal area for fishing and high soil fertility for growing pulses and vegetables. Even though fish and seafood, pulses and vegetables are available at a cheap price, the children who are leaders of tomorrow had the lowest preference level on these food items. Additionally, young children should be preferable of consuming meat and fruits at the highest level, since the current preference level is still required to promote in line with international standards.

The key message of current eating styles, habits and its effects for the future of the country’s development is a critical issue for nutrition and public health sector in Myanmar. The current preference level on meat, fish and seafood, pulses, vegetables and fruits, especially for the younger age and gender groups should be improved through nutrition sensitive public education programs by television channels, radio program, commercial   advertisements which should really attract the consumers’ attention and could help get the idea for changing the current preference and habits of consuming important food items.  Continuously, it is better to pay attention the public expenditure allocation into the nationwide nutrition program and food system including the essential requirements for school children so that the future generation would be healthy, energetic and brilliant for the country development. The further researches on food system would be recommended for evidence based nutrition promised policy formulation of sustainable healthy food system of the Myanmar people.

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