Breaking habits for the better
In order to feed an ever growing world population, new solutions and innovations that allow the production of healthy foods in a sustainable way are essential. Examples are the development of meat-like substitutes and salt reducers that can successfully integrate into food habits. Food choice is largely driven by habits, and habits are difficult to break. This fact hampers the transition of current food choices into a new and preferably more sustainable and healthy direction. Knowledge about how food habits are formed, and under which circumstances they can be changed is needed in order to help consumers change their diet towards more healthy and sustainable foods. Therefore, the aim of this project is to develop novel validated research methods that can facilitate the development of new and reformulated (sustainably sourced and produced) food products that can help to radically change existing food habits (e.g. from a meat- to a plant-based diet) or generate new food habits (e.g. by replacing regular-salt products with reduced-salt products). The scientific understanding of consumers’ food habits, i.e. how they evolve and change, will create new opportunities for the food industry to be successful in providing sustainably produced and healthy food products that consumers are willing to buy over and over again. This project relates to the provision of sustainable food products that have an enduring appeal to consumers for a more sustainable lifestyle. This will benefit society as a whole and enhances the innovation power of the Dutch Agri-Food business through an increased consumption of food products with reduced environmental impact.
Key objectives are:
a) Determination of the role of consumption situations in the formation and adaptation of food habits.
b) Development of new test methodologies, in particular semi-real life testing, to facilitate the developments of new and reformulated food products that fit existing food habits.
c) Insight in those combinations of situations and new products that can change food habits, i.e. changing a meat-based food habit into one including less meat products, and a diet with regular-salt products into a diet with reduced-salt products.
This project contributes to MMIP D2, especially to the theme “Consumer behaviour for healthy and sustainable choices”. The knowledge gained when meeting the objectives can be applied to facilitating consumers in changing their food habits towards a more healthy and sustainable diet.
Habits are considered to be situationally guided goal-directed behaviors, and hence, behavioral responses are automatically elicited when the situation arises. The situation can be external (e.g. location, company, occasion, the product itself) or internal (e.g. emotion, physiological state, motivation). Food products have traditionally been developed with a focus on their sensory properties isolated from any situation or their fit in food habits. The results of these sensory studies are often devoid of any meaning in the market place. Previous research has shown that the physical context in which a product is consumed (e.g. laboratory, restaurant, home) impacts product liking. Potentially, positive associations are created with a product if it is repeatedly consumed in a pleasant context, enhancing product liking, and possibly boosting repeat purchase. Gaining a better understanding of the roles of external and internal context situations on habit formation will enable better prediction of long-term consumer perceptions and acceptance of sustainable food products.
With the objectives stated above (2.2), this project contributes to MMIP D2 by gaining insights in mechanisms creating food habits. This can be utilized to steer consumers towards a more healthy and sustainable diet.
In addition, future research in the field of food choice behaviour will benefit from the comparison between lab, semi real life and real life situations.