Communication and food choice

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research examines how to modulate consumer food choice through communication. Our consumer research provides insights that allow manufacturers to implement effective marketing strategies that increase their chances of market success. These insights help governments to develop effective information campaigns to encourage people to eat healthily or to choose for sustainable options.

From supermarket and restaurant to gym and social media: consumers are overloaded with data about healthy and sustainable food. Yet, in practice, this affects their food choices only minimally. People tend to make unconscious food choices, for example because it smells ‘nice’ or looks attractive, because they feel hungry or just out of habit. Rational considerations such as “when I eat this product I feel and stay healthier for longer” play only a minor role in purchasing behavior. The challenge for manufacturers and governments is to present nutrition information in such a way that consumer food choices - conscious or unconscious – are affected.

Consumer research

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research combines a deep knowledge of psychology and nutrition with advanced methods for sensory research and for measuring consumer behavior. This provides the expert guidance needed to influence purchasing behavior via targeted communication. Imagine, for example, labeling that shows at a glance whether a product is produced sustainably, or giving personal feedback, via your smart phone, that contains your taste preferences or health status. Another possibility is to give subtle hints (nudges) that shepherd consumers in the desired directions. The insights from our consumer research allow manufacturers and governments to establish effective marketing and health campaigns.

Virtual supermarket

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, in collaboration with Green Dino BV, is currently developing a virtual supermarket environment in which we can examine the effects of different purchasing behavior nudges. Elements studied include the position of displays in the store, lighting, scent, information on the label and offering food from a menu package (bundling). Consumer walking patterns are recorded automatically, as is sales data.