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International Marketing Review

Situational segmentation in the international marketplace: the Japanese snack market


Kenneth C. Gehrt Soyeon Shim

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Kenneth C. Gehrt Soyeon Shim, (2003),"Situational segmentation in the international marketplace: the
Japanese snack market", International Marketing Review, Vol. 20 Iss 2 pp. 180 - 194
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IMR
20,2

180

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
http://www.emeraldinsight.com/0265-1335.htm

Situational segmentation in the


international marketplace: the
Japanese snack market
Kenneth C. Gehrt

Received September
2001
Revised January 2002
Accepted February 2002

Marketing and Quantitative Studies, College of Business, San Jose State


University, San Jose, California, USA

Soyeon Shim

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University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA


Keywords Japan, Segmentation, Situational analysis, Export
Abstract The study demonstrates the viability of situational segmentation in a market outside
the USA. A number of situational segmentation studies in the USA have examined the snacking
market. This study examines situational segmentation opportunities in the context of the Japanese
snacking market. The study attempts to delineate a situationally-defined market structure for a
broadly defined array of snack products. This is done by characterizing 18 snacks in terms of
pertinent situational factors via dummy variable regression analysis; and grouping the snacks in
terms of the similarity of their situational characterizations via cluster analysis. The study reveals
four multi-product snack segments, including solitary snacking cluster, socializing ensemble
cluster, high gravity socialization cluster, and morning home snack. The results show that
situational segmentation is as effective in complementing more traditional segmentation
approaches in Japan as it is in the USA.

International Marketing Review


Vol. 20 No. 2, 2003
pp. 180-194
q MCB UP Limited
0265-1335
DOI 10.1108/02651330310470393

Introduction
A large body of research has examined the influence of situational factors on
consumer behavior. The research has consistently shown that, as a result of the
incremental knowledge that accrues, effective means of segmentation become
available (Dickson, 1982; Van Kehove et al., 1999). Most of the situational
research, however, has been conducted in the context of the US market. Little
has been done to examine whether situational analysis yields useful results in
other cultures. This study examines the efficacy of situational analysis in the
Japanese market. Several situational studies have examined US snacking
behavior (Belk, 1974; Gehrt, 2000; Miller and Ginter, 1979; Ratneshwar and
Shocker, 1991). Results have shown that situational factors are important
determinants of snacking behavior. Thus, snacking behavior provides fertile
ground for examining situational influence in another culture. The results of
this study of Japanese snacking behavior will begin to determine whether
situational analysis is useful beyond the US market. The results may also
This research is supported by a grant from the US Department of Agriculture, National Research
Initiative.

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provide important insights for US exporters. US food exporters have found


Asian markets, particularly the Japanese market, very attractive (United States
Department of Agriculture, 1999). For US food exporters to continue to prosper
globally, it is essential that they acquire a more complete understanding of
consumers in target export countries. Snacking is an important element of the
Japanese food market as it is in the USA. Nonetheless, cultural differences
appear to underlie differences in product choices between the two countries (US
Agricultural Trade Office, Tokyo, 1995). It is prudent, therefore, to examine
Japanese snacking from a cultural, consumer behavior perspective rather than
from a simple food-intake perspective (Beatty et al., 1993).

Purpose of the study


The purpose of this study is to determine whether situational factors affect
Japanese consumer perceptions of a broadly defined assortment of snack
products. The study does this by first identifying a list of situational factors
and products that are relevant to the Japanese snacking market. Next, the study
utilizes a regression procedure to characterize each snack product in terms of
its suitability for each situational factor. Finally, the study utilizes a clustering
procedure to delineate a situationally-defined competitive market structure by
identifying snack products that have similar situational characterizations. The
analysis provides a foundation for understanding the importance of situational
influence in a culture outside of the USA. Further, it heightens sensitivity to
cultural factors that prevail in the Japanese snacking market for exporters.

Research on Japanese snack consumption


Research on Japanese snacking from a consumer behavior perspective is
relatively scarce. Researchers have focused on aggregate consumer demand or
descriptive analyses of consumer spending patterns. Several studies show that
Japanese consumers spend more on packaged, processed, and take-out food and
less on home-cooked and fresh food than in the past (Fujita and Chern, 1994;
Riethmuller, 1994; Shirouzu, 1995). Promotions contributing to this shift in
consumption tout confectionary snack food products and salty snacks as
healthy, nutritious and high-energy alternatives to other healthy types of snack
food (Huthoefer, 1992; Soliman, 1994). Increasingly time-pressured and casual
lifestyles also contribute to this shift in snacking (Brown, 1996; Dempster, 1999)
as does more open access to the Japanese market for exporters (Lowinger et al.,
1995). Lee (1994) found that the consumption of fresh fruit in Japan declined
substantially due to higher expenditure elasticity and rapid increase in price
relative to other fruits. While these studies are also useful in understanding
overall consumption, they do not explain the consumer perceptions that
underlie consumption pattern shifts.

Situational
segmentation

181

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182

Research on situational factors


The realization that consumer behavior is affected by situational factors as well
as consumer traits and product characteristics has its roots in field theory
(Lewin, 1936). Field theory asserts that each individual views each physical and
social setting somewhat differently. This subjective conceptualization of the
world is called life-space and its uniqueness results in variations in utility
functions and consumption behavior. Modern interactionism (Bem and Allen,
1974) represents the empirical assessment of Lewins theory. Belk (1974)
contributed substantially to bringing consideration of situational factors into
the arena of consumer research.
Situational influences include physical, social, temporal, and task
definition dimensions of the purchase process (Belk, 1975). These
contingencies are independent of the consumer and independent of the
characteristics of the product. Numerous studies have examined situational
contingency in the behavior of US consumers. Among those are studies of
gift-giving versus personal usage (Mattson, 1982), single versus multiple
product purchase tasks (Stoltman et al., 1990), and at home versus away
from home usage (Gehrt and Pinto, 1991). The research has also examined
situational influence among various product categories including apparel
(Stoltman et al. 1990), beverages (Warshaw, 1980), fast food (Belk, 1975), and
snacks (Belk, 1974; Gehrt, 2000; Miller and Ginter, 1979; Ratneshwar and
Shocker, 1991).
Product markets have often been measured on the basis of product
attributes (Pessemeir, 1975). According to this framework, products with
similar attributes are assumed to be competitive. This narrowly defined,
product-oriented conceptualization, however, is applicable primarily to
interbrand competition (Srivastava et al., 1981). Competitive threats from
other products and/or new product forms may be difficult to detect. A more
broadly conceived definition of the market could account for competitive
threats that transcend a single product form. When several products are
perceived to be useful in a particular usage situation, they can be considered
competitive products. Thus, by characterizing products with respect to
pertinent situational contingencies, it is possible to determine whether those
products are competitive. To illustrate this from an attribute-defined
perspective, oranges compete with melons, apples, bananas, and other fruits.
But from a situationally-oriented perspective, when the Japanese consumer
goes to market to purchase a snack, although fruit is often considered, it
faces competition from products that, on a product attribute basis, are very
different products such as coffee, ice cream, and candy bars. In another
situationally defined market such as gift-giving, fruit may compete against
an entirely different set of products including flowers, liquor, and gift
certificates.

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Method
Phase 1. Instrument development
Focus group interview procedure. A focus group interview was conducted in
Tokyo, Japan for the purpose of collecting qualitative data on snacking
behavior. A Japanese market research firm located in Tokyo assisted in
recruiting eight Japanese housewives who resided in the Tokyo area. The
subjects represented various demographic characteristics in terms of age and
socioeconomic background. A Japanese professional facilitated the interview.
The interview was designed to elicit an understanding of situational factors
that affected Japanese snacking behavior and products that Japanese
consumers chose to satisfy their snack needs. Three bilingual Japanese
market research professionals, including the focus group interview facilitator,
helped to interpret the focus group results and develop the final version of the
questionnaire. The process was critical to capturing the subtle differences in
culture and language.
Identification of situational factors. Three situational factors were identified
as a result of the focus group interview. The list represented a parsimonious set
of situational factors affecting Japanese snacking behavior. The three factors
were:
(1) whether snacks are consumed at home or away from home;
(2) whether snacks are consumed in the morning or afternoon; and
(3) whether the snacker will eat alone or with others.
Each scenario accounted for one of the cells of a full-factorial representation of
the three, two-level situational factors (2 2 2 8). A similar process has
been employed in other situational research (Gehrt and Pinto, 1991; Srivastava
et al., 1984). In each study, multifactor scenario treatments were utilized rather
than single-factor treatments because the multifactor scenario provides
subjects with a more realistic, holistic response setting. The situational
scenarios used by this study are shown below:
.
In the morning, when you meet an important individual somewhere other
than home (morning, others, away).
.
In the morning, when an important individual visits at your house
(morning, others, home).
.
In the morning, somewhere other than at home (morning, alone, away).
.
In the morning, at home (morning, alone, home).
.
In the afternoon, when you meet an important individual somewhere
other than at home (afternoon, others, away).
.
In the afternoon, when an important individual visits you at your house
(afternoon, others, home).

Situational
segmentation

183

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184

In the afternoon, somewhere other than at home (afternoon, alone,


away).
In the afternoon, at home (afternoon, alone, home).

Identification of snack foods. A careful review of the focus group interview


shows a list of 18 snacks was selected. The Japanese research consultants felt
that the list was an efficient representation of the results of the focus group
interviews and captured a broadly defined snack market. Furthermore, since
this was the first empirical investigation of situational influence in the Japanese
snack market, a broadly defined market provided a more useful baseline for
future situational research that may investigate more narrowly defined sectors
of the Japanese snack market.
Questionnaire construction. The questionnaire required respondents to rate
the appropriateness of the 18 snacks in each of the eight situational scenarios,
using a five-point scale (1 highly inappropriate, 5 highly appropriate).
Table I shows an English version of one page/one situational scenario of the
questionnaire. The appropriateness scale was chosen over measures such as
past usage and usage likelihood for several reasons. First, appropriateness has
been used in several past situational studies. Further, an effort was made to
limit demands on respondents recall of past usage for 18 products across eight
scenarios. Finally, usage preference and usage likelihood scales were not
Rate the appropriateness of each snack in the following situation by circling the number that best
reflects your opinion
In the morning, when you meet an important individual somewhere other than in your house
Highly
inappropriate

Table I.
An English version
of one-page/one
situational scenario
of the questionnaire

Melons
Bananas
Pears
Apples
Oranges
Tangerines
Potato chips
Candy bars
Ice cream
Cakes
Hamburgers
Rice crackers
Rice cakes
Expensive Japanese-style cakes/sweets
Rice balls
Coffee
Juice
Japanese green tea

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2

Highly
appropriate
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3

4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4

5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5

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chosen because they tend to reflect current usage patterns that are not the focus
of this study. The questionnaire also included demographic questions to assess
sample adequacy. The data were collected to provide an opportunity to assess
the nature of the sample.
Phase 2. Data collection
The study utilized a sample of housewives residing in major Japanese cities.
Housewives were chosen because they are the primary shoppers in Japan
(Jansen, 2000; Soliman, 1994). A common data-gathering method in Japan is
dropping off and picking up survey questionnaires door-to-door. This method
was considered and rejected because it is difficult and expensive for large
geographic regions. To maximize coverage and to ensure a sufficient sample
size, a special method was devised with the help of the Japanese research team.
The method employed the following procedure which conformed to Japanese
culture. A pre-screening of subjects through a two-way postcard was
conducted. The postcard described the nature of the study and the incentive for
participation. Subjects were asked to return the pre-paid postcard with a yes
or no response indicating whether they would participate. The two-way
postcards were sent to 3,000 housewives who were proportionately distributed
between Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Sendai, Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka.
The 812 housewives who agreed to participate received the questionnaire and a
return envelope with prepaid postage. Of those who received the questionnaire,
775 responded. The incentive consisted of a telephone card (face value
equivalent to $4) with the logo of a US university. The sample composition was
slightly older and more upscale than average for the cities.
Phase 3. Data analysis and results
Situational characterization. Dummy variable regression was used to
characterize the 18 snacks on a situational basis. The appropriateness
ratings were prepared by summing across individuals. This yielded an eight
(situations) 18 (snack items) data matrix. Situational characterization of the
snack items was completed by subjecting the matrix to dummy variable
regression. The regression procedure reduced the 144 cell matrix (18 snacks
eight scenarios) to 54 values (18 snacks three situational beta weights). A
total of 18 separate regression models were estimated, one for each snack item.
Beta weights were utilized because the study was not concerned with each
snacks current market position, which would be reflected by the y-intercept of
unstandardized regression coefficients. Rather, the studys purpose was to
isolate and examine the potential substitutability of the snack items in different
situations. The results of the regression procedure are included in Table II.
Although the means show that Japanese sweets outperform rice balls in every
situation (see Table III), it is relatively difficult to ascertain that rice balls close
the gap on Japanese sweets in snacking situations in which one is alone.
Isolation of this situational contingency is accomplished through the use of

Situational
segmentation

185

0.043
0.727
0.103
0.715
0.567
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.004
0.918
0.023
0.902
0.372
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

Coffee
0.043
0.721
0.162
0.607
0.671
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***

Cake

Notes: p , 0:05;   p , 0:01;   p , 0:001

01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Table II.
Regression/cluster
results

Juices
0.017
0.883
0.081
0.264
0.910
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***

Icecream
0.011
0.861
0.070
0.939
0.183
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***

Rice
ball
0.045
0.721
0.368
2 0.686
0.485
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.079
0.627
0.500
0.665
0.308
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.084
0.614
0.555
0.620
0.295
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.071
0.647
0.629
0.619
0.137
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***

0.003
0.926
0.928
0.124
0.285
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.000
0.982
0.957
0.222
0.160
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.001
0.953
0.943
0.182
0.223
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.000
0.981
0.971
0.143
0.163
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

Solitary snacking cluster


Morning home cluster
Candy Potato
Rice
Hamburgers
bar
chips Banana crackers Tangerine Orange Apple

0.000
0.993
0.979
0.020
0.195
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***

Pear

0.009
0.879
0.595
0.666
0.364
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.013
0.850
0.885
0.114
0.342
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.044
0.724
0.784
0.397
0.264
*
*
*
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***
***

0.000
0.978
0.849
0.386
0.342
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*

High gravity socialization cluster


Exp
Rice
Green
sweets cakes
tea
Melon

186

Prob F
Adj R 2
Away+/home
Others+/alone
Aft+/morn
5,396
5,765
6,176
10,430
16,866
27,143
39,220
85,827
88,870
106,111
144,226
*** 216,923
321,536
385,466
775.523
1.069,494
1,706,310

Socializing ensemble
cluster

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20,2

Home/alone/morn
Home/alone/aft
Home/visit/morn
Home/visit/aft
Away/alone/morn
Away/alone/aft
Away/visit/morn
Away/visit/aft

2.711
3.270
3.257
3.819
1.817
2.138
2.262
2.550

3.277
3.587
1.958
2.102
1.946
2.087
1.723
1.852

3.304
3.698
3.285
3.646
1.935
2.163
1.941
2.109

3.445
3.743
3.111
3.404
1.975
2.174
1.933
2.074

3.198
3.547
2.829
3.129
1.963
2.206
1.970
2.128

3.663
4.012
3.208
3.495
2.074
2.314
1.916
2.047

Melon Banana Pear Apple Orange Tangerine


2.151
2.931
1.577
1.696
1.622
1.773
1.416
1.466

2.082
2.827
1.544
1.661
1.668
1.819
1.430
1.477

2.554
3.597
2.581
3.153
2.690
3.314
2.604
3.040

2.502
3.676
3.795
4.240
2.834
3.504
3.331
3.784

2.309
3.232
2.034
2.247
2.223
2.577
1.864
1.958

2.884
3.718
3.076
3.361
3.988
2.267
1.812
1.945

2.805
3.671
3.470
3.678
2.200
2.589
2.253
2.404

2.634
3.498
4.099
4.344
2.282
2.780
2.988
3.334

1.970
2.248
1.310
1.384
1.861
1.956
1.443
1.470

4.168
4.309
4.559
4.626
4.128
4.383
4.520
4.596

3.351
3.659
3.772
3.841
3.487
3.737
3.718
3.812

Potato Candy IceRice


Rice
Exp Rice
chips
bar cream Cake Hamburger crackers cakes sweets ball Coffee Juice

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Situational
segmentation

187

Table III.
Product
situational scenario
means

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188

situational beta weights. Of the 18 regression models, 15 were significant at


p , 0:05. Of the 18 adjusted R 2, measures, 11 were above the 0.80 level,
indicating a very strong relationship between the situation and snack
appropriateness ratings. Each snack was characterized by the three situational
beta weights (morning versus afternoon, alone versus with others, home versus
away from home) that were the component parts of each scenario.
Delineation of competitive market structure by hierarchical clustering. In
delineating a competitive market structure, the objective is to classify a large
number of individual products into a small number of mutually exclusive
groups of products (Hair et al., 1998). A commonly used technique for this
purpose is cluster analysis (Punj and Stewart, 1983). Cluster analysis arranges
products into groups based on predetermined criterion variables, which in the
case of this study were situational factors. Once the snacks had been
situationally characterized, SPSS CLUSTER was used to group objects (18
snacks) in an iterative manner that maximizes the prediction of the accountable
variance (beta weights rather than raw scores) between objects on some
relevant predictor variable (three situational beta weights). Squared Euclidean
distance and average linkage between groups were used to calculate clusters.
The agglomerative algorithm begins by treating each of the 18 snacks as a
separate cluster. The pair of snacks with the most similar situational beta
weights is clustered first. The next step could either group two single snacks,
or group a single snack with the previously clustered pair. A substantial
increase in the distance measure indicates that the snacks being clustered are
increasingly dissimilar and that the predictive power of the model is rapidly
decreasing. Since there is a substantial increase in the distance coefficient
increment at stage 12, the optimal cluster solution is at stage 11.
Interpretation of the solution was accomplished by comparing the beta
weights of products (Table II) in a single cluster (competitive snacks) as well as
those of snacks in different clusters (non-competitive snacks). Titles for clusters
were then assigned by interpreting the situational distinctiveness of each
cluster. Comparison of non-competitive snacks will reveal generally disparate
situational betas. The cluster solution at stage 11 consisted of one five-snack
cluster, two four-snack clusters, one three-snack cluster, and two one-snack
clusters. A split-sample analysis was performed to evaluate the stability of the
cluster solution and to ensure that the results reflect true perceptual differences
rather than method artifacts. The final cluster solution for each half was similar
to the solution for the entire sample, providing a measure of cross-validation.
Discussion and implications
Four multiple product clusters emerged from the analysis. Products that are
most situationally competitive are those that belong to clusters whose members
emerged relatively early. Thus, the morning home cluster, a cluster
comprised primarily of fruits, is a cluster whose constituents are highly

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competitive since it emerged relatively early. The solitary snacking cluster


did not begin to coalesce until relatively late. In the discussion and
implications section, each cluster will be assessed in the order in which it
emerged.
Morning home snack cluster
The first cluster to emerge consists of five items including four fruits:
tangerine, orange, apple, and pear. An examination of situational beta weights
(Table II) indicates that the cluster is most distinctive in terms of the
away/home factor. Among the multiple snack clusters, the morning home
cluster had betas farthest along the home end of the away/home continuum
and betas farthest along the morning end of the afternoon/morning
continuum. It was the second most appropriate cluster for situations in which
one snacks alone, behind the solitary snacking cluster.
US fruit exporters should be aware of the fact that this situationally-defined
cluster contains a large number of fruit items. Thus, to exploit the status quo,
marketers should emphasize the appropriateness of fruit for morning
consumption at home. In the long term, efforts should also be made to
reposition fruit in the Japanese snacking market. One repositioning opportunity
might be in terms of snacking away from home. Fruit snacking may be limited
to the home because the Japanese seldom eat fruit unpeeled due to concerns
about insecticides and wax. Further, fruit is often cut into aesthetically pleasing
pieces since appearance is very important to the Japanese consumer. Efforts to
encourage consumption of unpeeled fruit away from home could be as simple
as promoting the portability of fruit. On the other hand, efforts to encourage
consumption of fruit away from home could be as difficult as shifting cultural
beliefs related to the social acceptability of eating in public or the danger of
eating unpeeled produce.
Solitary snacking cluster
The next multiple product cluster, the solitary snacking cluster, consists of
four products: hamburgers, candy bars, potato chips, and bananas. The
clusters most distinctive situational characterization is that on the alone/with
others continuum, its betas are notably farthest along the alone end of the
continuum. In terms of the situational morning/afternoon beta, the cluster is a
mixture of products, with some appropriate for relatively earlier in the day
(bananas/0.137) and others appropriate for relatively later in the day
(hamburger/0.485). Likewise, in terms of the home/away beta, the cluster is
a mixture of products, with some relatively appropriate for at home (banana/
0.629) and others relatively appropriate for away from home (hamburger/
0.368).
These represent a collection of food products that are very different from one
another in terms of product attributes. A common denominator, however, is
that they consist of foods more often associated with western snack habits,

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including bananas which, surprisingly to some, enjoy relatively greater


popularity in the West compared to Japan. To take advantage of the status quo,
marketers should recognize that western style snacks perform well in
situations in which consumers snack on their own. This may be motivated by a
junk food stigmatization. Most of these products are generally perceived as
snack choices of questionable nutritional value. Promotional messages should
emphasize that when you have a moment by yourself it is the perfect time to
enjoy one of these products. One repositioning opportunity might be to develop
the with others segment by accentuating any nutritional attributes that these
products possess. In the USA, for instance, Snickers candy bars have been
nutritionally promoted as an emergency source of energy.
High gravity socialization cluster
The high gravity socialization cluster consists of four products: expensive
Japanese sweets, rice cakes, green tea, and melon. The cluster is second farthest
along the others end of the others/alone continuum, second farthest along
the home end of the away/home continuum toward the home end, and
second farthest along the afternoon end of the afternoon/morning
continuum. Three of the products (Japanese sweets, green tea, melon) are
highly esteemed and expensive food items in Japanese culture. These highly
regarded food items are usually associated with special occasions such as
serving snacks to important guests. This is probably a result of the social
exchange and reciprocity-oriented culture that is rooted in Japanese religious
practices in which the offering of food to guests is a social obligation (Jansen,
2000).
An important implication related to this segment is that the methodology
employed by this study could be used to identify other foods that have a similar
situational profile. This would indicate that it might be possible to market the
foods in a manner similar to those included in the high gravity socialization
cluster, including a premium price. These are foods that, because of their
appropriateness in situations of social gravity, entitle exporters to a generous
markup.
Socializing ensemble cluster
The final multiple snack cluster consists of three items; juice, coffee, and cakes.
Thus, all four multiple product clusters included at least one fruit. An
examination of situational beta weights (Table II) indicates that the cluster is
very distinctive in terms of all three situational beta weights. Among the
multiple snack clusters, the socializing ensemble cluster has betas farthest
along the afternoon end of the morning/afternoon continuum, betas farthest
along the others end of the others/alone continuum, and the beta farthest
along the away end of the away/home continuum. Products in the
socializing ensemble are appropriate for afternoon outings with others. In
fact, Japanese housewives often meet friends at upscale coffee shops for an

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afternoon snack. The cluster moniker carries the designation ensemble since
the three snacks are probably not seen as mutually exclusive snack alternatives
for afternoon outings with others; rather, they are often eaten together. The
cakes, small pastry type items, function in much the same way that a Danish
complements coffee in the USA.
An implication for US fruit growers is that, for those who export juice-grade
fruit, Japanese fruit juice consumption currently takes place later in the day. If
promotional efforts were made to encourage consumption during other parts of
the day, they might parallel the campaigns that were used by US orange
growers 20 years ago. The campaigns informed US consumers that orange
juice consumption, which at the time was confined primarily to the morning,
was appropriate throughout the day.
Single product clusters
Two products emerged as single product clusters. They were unique compared
to other products with respect to their distinctive appropriateness across the
three situational factors. Ice cream was, by a considerable margin, farthest
along the afternoon end of the afternoon/morning continuum. Its
away/home beta was fourth largest, making it the fourth most appropriate
for away from home snacking. It is important to note that snacking in public is
not accepted in Japan to the extent that it is in the USA. Rice balls were, by a
considerable margin, farthest along the alone end of the others/alone
continuum. Their away/home beta was third largest, making them the third
most appropriate for away from home snacking. Rice balls are readily available
at convenience stores and are a common snack choice for people on the move.
Identifying overserved and underserved markets
Although the list of snacks employed is certainly not exhaustive, this study
begins to show how it is possible to identify situational segments that are
highly competitive and overserved and segments that are less competitive and
underserved. In terms of the morning versus afternoon factor, for instance,
none of the products approach the extreme morning end of the continuum
(1.000). In terms of away from home versus at home snacks, the away from
home segment is grossly underserved. Fruit juice performs the best with the
highest away/home beta of 0.103. In fact, it has the only positive beta score.
This represents a particularly attractive segmentation opportunity for a
product that can be properly positioned. This could entail conveying a
promotional message that a product is suitable as a snack for someone on the
go. This could also entail the arduous task of promoting change in Japanese
customs regarding the suitability of snacking in public. Conversely, seven of
the products have positive betas in excess of 0.800 (pear/0.979; apple/0.971;
tangerine/0.957; orange/0.943; rice crackers/0.928; rice cakes/0.885;
melon/0.849), indicating a very strong position in the overserved home snack
market.

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Although markets with many competitors are generally not attractive, the
methodology utilized allows the marketer to assess the quantity as well as the
quality of competition. The relative number of products that comprise each
cluster provides evidence of the quantity of competition. In this study, the
number of products in each multi-product cluster is somewhat similar. This has
not been the case for some similar studies (e.g. Gehrt and Pinto, 1991;
Srivastava et al., 1981). The situational beta weights for products in each
cluster provide evidence of the quality or the nature of competition. For
example, of the four products in the solitary snacking cluster, bananas were a
good degree closer to the morning end of the afternoon/morning continuum
than the others (banana/0.137 versus hamburger/0.485, candy bar/0.308, potato
chips/0.295). Bananas, therefore, might be positioned against the other
products with respect to their suitability as an early snack alternative. The
market structure delineation methodology could also be used to assess a
products current position in a situationally defined market and whether there
is a need for repositioning; and the likely situationally-defined impact that a
new entry into the snack market would have on competing products.
Conclusions
In an increasingly competitive and lucrative world market, exporters must
develop innovative marketing strategies if they are to establish strong market
positions. By examining situational theory, this study begins to fill a gap in the
international and export literature. Past research has typically relied on
consumer traits and product characteristics to analyze markets. This research
demonstrates the applicability of situational theory in the context of
international marketing. The study is one of the first in international
marketing to delineate a competitive market structure in terms substantially
different from conventional consumer characteristic and product attribute
approaches. In more pragmatic terms, the research identifies situational
segments in an international market that are highly competitive and
overserved as well as situational segments that are less competitive and
underserved. Markets with very few competitors are attractive since there
exists ample opportunity for additional product or brand alternatives.
Although markets with many competitors are generally not attractive
opportunities, the methodology utilized by the study allows the marketer to
assess the quality as well as the quantity of competition.
Limitations
Although this study offers some important implications for the use of
situational research in the context of snacking, there are some limitations that
need to be addressed. First, while the research provides an important starting
point for situational segmentation, the lists of situational factors and snacks are
not exhaustive. For example, focus group interviews indicated that another

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situational factor affecting snack choice is whether or not the snacker is rushed
for time. It should be noted, however, that as more situational factors are added
to the study, the full-factorial representation of two-level factors rapidly
becomes ungainly (e.g. with four two-level factors, the number of cell choices
increases from eight to 16). In terms of products, other fruits could have been
examined as well as other snack foods. Another limitation is the urban nature
of the sample, which may preclude generalization of the findings to snacking in
rural areas. For this initial study, however, the decision was made to limit
examination to urban consumers since this is where most of the market
potential resides. Although consumer decision making remains solidly in the
domain of women (Jansen, 2000), changing lifestyles (Brown, 1996) increasingly
call for mixed gender samples. The study also limits segmentation to
situational bases. To increase the utility of the findings, future research should
incorporate additional characteristics (i.e. attribute importance,
psychographics, demographics) along with situational variables to develop a
more comprehensive understanding of Japanese snacking.
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