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Lei Cong

PhD Candidate
Food Science

Lei Cong Profile Photo


Tel +64 3 470 5753
Location AppSci, 108

Chinese consumers’ perceptions of the benefits of functional foods to combat the impact of air pollution on the immune system

Supervised by  Professor Phil Bremer and Dr Miranda Mirosa


Lei comes from Yantai in China. Her education background focuses on Food Science and Technology, obtaining an M.Eng. (Research) from Shanghai Ocean University (China) and a B. Eng. from Shandong University of Technology (China). During her graduate studies, Lei spent a summer as a visiting student in the Marine Bio-products Technology Laboratory at Kyoto University, Japan. Before arriving in New Zealand to start her PhD in 2016, she worked for more than five years as an administrator in a joint-venture university, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU), focusing on programme quality assurance and research administration.

Lei came to NZ with her husband and her 3-year old daughter. Lei really enjoys the lovely nature and peaceful life in Dunedin.

Project Outline

Across China, less than 1% of the population can breathe air that is considered safe (WHO Air Quality Guideline 2006). 47% of Chinese adults have expressed concern about catching incurable diseases through air pollution, while 38% are worried about respiratory diseases.

Lei's research links with a High Value Nutrition, National Science Challenge funded project, working to develop functional foods that can combat the adverse impacts on air pollution on the immune system. (

In order to ensure the successful market update of any new food, a deep understanding of the target consumer is required. By truly understanding the priorities of Chinese consumers, we will both help focus the Immune defence research platform investments on consumer-relevant biomarkers, as well as empowering New Zealand food and beverage providers to address real market needs.

The overall aim of this thesis research is to investigate Chinese consumers’ perceptions of protecting the immune system against the impact of air pollution, and the subsequent influence of these perceptions on consumers’ willingness to pay for relevant functional foods. A combination of consumer research techniques, including qualitative and quantitative methodologies, will be used to explore these issues.


Bremer PJ, Mirosa MJ, Kaye-Blake WH, Cong L, Harker FR. (June 2018). Chinese consumer insights regarding immune health: draft white paper. Consumer Insights Programme, High Value Nutrition - Ko Ngᾱ Kai Whai Painga: A National Science Challenge.

Bremer PJ., Cong L. (July, 2017). Determining consumer preferences in Asia. Verbal presentation at High-Value Nutrition Medical Forum, Otago Postgraduate Medical Society, Dunedin, NZ.

Cong, L., Bremer P., Mirosa M. (2019). Chinese Consumers’ Perceptions of Functional Foods: A Netnography Study of Foods that Help the Immune System Recover from Air Pollution. Journal of Food Products Marketing, 25(6), 628-646.

Cong, L., Mirosa, M., Kaye-Blake, W., Bremer, P. (June 2019). Chinese consumers’ understanding of building immune defence against air pollution through functional foods. Verbal presentation and extended abstract presented at the 2019 International Food Marketing Research Symposium, Sippy Downs, Australia.

Cong L., Consumer Insights Team. (October 2018). Traditional Chinese Medicine & Chinese Consumers’ Immune Health Issues and Solutions. Verbal presentations at Workshop of Understanding Chinese Consumers with Immune Health Issues, Auckland & Wellington, NZ.

Cong L, Bremer PJ, Fang ES, Li L, Mirosa MJ1. (September 2018). Biocide use in the food industry: New Zealand and Chinese consumer perceptions relating to the need and usefulness of biocides with particular reference to dairy products, NZ Food Safety Science & Research Centre.

Cong L., Bremer PJ., Mirosa MJ. (July, 2018). Exploring Chinese Consumers’ Perceptions of Functional Foods. Verbal presentation and abstract at New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology Incorporated (NZIFST) Conference 2018, Hamilton, NZ.

Cong L., Bremer PJ., Mirosa MJ. (September, 2017). Chinese consumers’ understanding on helping the immune system recover from the impact of air pollution. Poster session presented at the High-Value Nutrition Conference 2017, Auckland, NZ.

Cong, L., Wang, X., Liu, Y., & Lu, Y. (2010). Preparation of tetrodotoxin immunogen and establishment of characterization system. Zhongguo Yufang Shouyi Xuebao/Chinese Journal of Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 32(6), 491-494.

Cong, L., Wang, X., Liu, Y., & Lu, Y. (2009). Current Progress in Tetrodotoxin Immunoassays. Food Science, 30(19): 327-330.