Consumer research

Food Consumer Behaviour

How do consumers make dietary choices and how can these choices be influenced? Experts of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research are conducting research into choice behaviour among specific target groups, focussing on the taste experience of various products and the effects of diets on well-being and health.

Consumer research: sensory and real life testing

Sensory tests are carried out in a specially equipped smelling and tasting laboratory, but the researchers can also observe test subjects in their natural environments, this includes:

  • Real life tests, whereby products can be modified over time to monitor the effect on consumption and appreciation (e.g. products with less salt, alternative proteins or less fat).
  • Mood rooms, in which natural environments are simulated using projections, sounds and smells to reproduce a real life situation (e.g. a supermarket or airplane) as much as possible. Cameras and other equipment are used to register how people respond to stimuli from their environment (e.g. through eye movement tracking).
  • Home environments, in which it is possible to gain insight into how people respond to various products at home. The advantage of this method is that the test subjects can use the products in the same way they always do.

Specific target groups: senior citizens and children

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has its own consumer panel of senior citizens and an extensive network of schools, childcare centres and sports clubs that it can use to conduct sensory and consumer research in.

Influencing behaviour

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research also conducts research into ways to influence consumers’ dietary choices through communication. People mainly have subconscious motives for choosing a product, for example because it smells nice, it is attractively presented, because their stomach is rumbling, or simply out of habit. It has been shown that rational considerations often only play a minor role in purchasing behaviour. Examining consumers’ underlying motives for eating (or not eating) certain foods can reveal ways to permanently influence their dietary behaviour.

At the same time we are studying how we can help consumers to make healthier dietary choices, for example by changing a product range or the environment in which choices are made, or by providing personal guidance and advice.


The choice of a food product is strongly influenced by sensory properties such as taste, smell and texture, but also by the emotions that the product evokes. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research combines various state-of-the-art techniques to identify and analyse these emotions. For example, we have joined forces with a number of technical and scientific partners to develop a toolbox that can be used to analyse emotions generated by the consumption of a product. The tests measure emotions on the basis of facial expression, heart rate and body temperature, among others. The toolbox has been extensively tested on both children and adults in diverse test environments.