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Men, Women, and Satisfaction with Eating

Dentsu’s Food & Life Lab, is a project team that explores food-related trends and other food-related issues. As the name suggests, my colleagues and I are always thinking about food and, as a member of the Food & Life Lab, one of my responsibilities is to consider aspects of food as they touch on lifestyles, values, and generations, which I present below.

Eating, which is essential for survival, has an impact on practically every aspect of our lives. For that reason, in this article, I’d like to try looking at the topic of food from a broader perspective than usual, meaning not just about how people decide what to eat and how they choose food products and ingredients on a daily basis.

Specifically, I’d like to talk about the relationship between eating habits and people’s level of satisfaction. By drawing on the laboratory’s data, I will consider factors that determine level of satisfaction and how those factors affect the level of satisfaction.

In September 2016, the laboratory carried out an online survey, the Food & Life Lab Survey Volume 51. Based on this proprietary survey, we examined how people’s satisfaction with their current eating habits was affected by various perceptions and actions related to food.2

The three important findings from the survey results were:

  1. 1. Factors that drive levels of satisfaction are clearly different between men and women.
  2. 2. A sad perception gap is evident between men and women of retirement age.
  3. 3. “Taste of home cooking” is important in driving satisfaction.

Men on “eating” side, women on “cooking” side

Chart 1-1

Chart 1-2

Charts 1-1 and 1-2 give the items with the most impact on satisfaction with eating among men and women, respectively, in descending order of importance. The scores corresponding to each item represent the degree to which the respondents’ satisfaction with eating is affected.3 The higher the score, the greater the effect. Some scores are negative, indicating low levels of food satisfaction with the corresponding items.

Chart 1-1 suggests that satisfaction with food among men is associated with their current health and financial situation, as well as their relationship with either a spouse or partner.

Meanwhile, chart 1-2 suggests that satisfaction with food among women is affected not only by personal health considerations, but also by confidence in cooking and talking about food in such ways as expressing their thoughts and feelings to those who have prepared a meal.

In other words, while men’s level of satisfaction is derived from EATING standpoint, like what they’re eating and the situation in which they’re eating, women’s level of satisfaction is derived not just from EATING but also from a COOKING standpoint, such as the circumstances and the kinds of feelings they experience during preparation of food.

It seems that men are prone to thinking about eating, while women tend to think about cooking.

Apart from the positive and negative aspects of these results, I believe that analyzing food satisfaction provides insights into the broader state of Japanese society.

Something I find particularly interesting is the fact that,among women, activeness in romance has an impact on their level of satisfaction with eating.. While romance and eating may seem unrelated at first, the idea that the more a woman proactively enjoys romance, the more she enjoys the food she eats with her partner does make sense.

Furthermore, we can also speculate that what contributes to increased satisfaction with food is not only the action of eating with her partner, but also cooking food for that person.

Another noteworthy point regarding women is mention of the fact that they tell whoever made the food that it was delicious. This indicates that complementing the quality of food prepared may be an important part of women’s satisfaction with eating it.

Indeed, because Japanese women are mostly responsible for cooking meals every day, it is natural for them to express their appreciation and feelings to people who have prepared food. Moreover, I believe, there must be many people who would like to hear comments about their cooking.

Gap between men and women in the retirement age

Chart 2

Chart 2 indicates the age group- and gender-based influence that regularly eating with one’s family has on satisfaction levels. The differences between men and women are clear.

Overall, satisfaction with food when dining with one’s family tends to be higher among men than women. This trend is particularly pronounced for males aged between 15 and 29. During those years, many men experience major life changes. These include entering college after having devoted time to extracurricular activities in high school and having studied hard for entrance exams, as well as starting to live away from home. The survey results may reflect their wish again to have a meal with the family, as opportunities to eat together at home decline.

Most of the results in the chart are positive, except for the category of women aged 50 to 79. Surprisingly, the level of satisfaction was negatively affected by “eating together with family”.

Typically, women of that age are living only with their husbands, while their children are living on their own. Further, the husbands, having retired, would be spending far more time at home than before. Such changes can be stressful for women. In many cases, women would still be responsible for making meals, which might be another source of stress.

While it was disheartening to find that having a meal at home tends to decrease satisfaction with food among women over the age of 50, we at Dentsu’s Food & Life Lab are brainstorming to find ideas on how to help remedy the situation. We are hoping to increase satisfaction with food nationwide.

Satisfaction and home cooking

Finally, I would like to share some survey results that were rather comforting.

Chart 3

Chart 3 shows the effect of “Knows the taste of home cooking” on satisfaction with eating. In the 15-to-29 age group, it does not contribute to satisfaction among males and the effect is low among females.

Among people over 30, however, the results clearly indicate that “Knows the taste of home cooking” has a positive impact on satisfaction . In other words, satisfaction increases as people grow older and become accustomed to the taste of home, making them crave their home cooked meals.

Perhaps people increasingly appreciate home cooking over the course of having a family—from the time they get married to when they have and then raise children—and that influences their satisfaction with food. The chart indicates that the effect on satisfaction is stronger among women than men.

I can relate to these particular survey results on a personal level. When I was a girl, I was not really interested in eating at home, as I always wanted to do something different. I wanted to discover the fun of eating out and looked forward to that. I also wanted to be exposed to a variety of tastes.

As I grew older, however, I gradually came to appreciate the pleasure of eating in the calm atmosphere of the home. This is especially true now that I have my own family. When I prepare food every day, I am grateful that, years ago, my mom provided me with that taste of home

Up until now, we Japanese have called this “Mom’s taste.” Now that more women are working outside of home and dads, grandparents, and others are cooking for children, we may be calling it something different in the near future.

Notes:

  • 1. The Food & Life Lab Survey Volume 5 was an online survey of 1,200 people between the ages of 15 and 79. It was conducted in September 2016 by Video Research Ltd.
  • 2. Survey respondents were asked to rate how their current eating habits corresponded to satisfaction with food on a 10-point scale. The responses were subject to a multiple regression analysis, to measure the relationships between the level of satisfaction and food, lifestyles, as well as associated awareness and actions.
  • 3. The degree of the effect on satisfaction with food (the dependent variable in the analysis), is shown as an indexed score. For example, a score of 0.177 means that, if the deviation value of the independent variable were to increase by 1.0, the deviation value of the dependent variable would increase by 0.177.
Yuko Yoshiba

Yuko Yoshiba

Communication Planner/Strategist
Creative Planning Division 2

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