Informations and abstract
Keywords: Lactose-free, delactosed products, Netnography, consumer psychology, consumer engagement.
In recent years, the food industry has developed and brought out new types of products to the market in order to respond to an increasingly active, informed consumer who has new needs. The production of «free» food, indeed, was born from the need to satisfy a new food model consumption based on the search for well-being and health. In Italy, in 2017, the sales of «free» food, increased by 2.3% where the best performers are lactose-free products (Osservatorio Immagino, 2018). Despite the widespread consumption of lactose-free products there is a lack of studies that explore values and representations of brands and consumers of lactose-free products. What is the alignment between the values of consumers and the communication used by companies to propose their lactose-free products? To fill this gap, this study reports the results of an exploratory study based on Social Media Analysis and Netnography aimed at deepening the spontaneous conversations online between the main Italian companies of lactose-free products and consumers, about lactose-free products. The analysis of 909 comments on Facebook, all concerning the theme of «lactose-free», of which 161 posted by brands (Arborea, Mila Südtirol, Latteria Soresina, Latteria Valtellina, Granarolo and Parmalat) and 748 published by consumers, shows a mismatch between the topics used by consumers to speak about lactose- free products and the promotional issues used by brands. While taste and confidence in the brand are central issues in consumer online conversation, these issues are less common in the online promotional activities of main italian companies of lactose-free products, bringing to light a potential clash between consumer issues and the real topics used by companies to communicate the lactose-free products in social media. The results of the work, although exploratory, highlight the emerging gaps between consumer sentiment and the promotional issues of the selected brands, also indicating potential areas for improvement in order to create a real partnership and relationship with consumers in social media.