Author: Durk Bosma

How can we increase trust in the food chain?

How can we increase trust in the food chain? 



To uncover the themes that play a role in influencing consumers to eat more healthily, more sustainably, and to be more open towards food innovation. The insights, in conjunction with findings from the TrustTracker® project, are used to plan future dialogue and engagement with the EIT Food community.  

Our approach:

Future of Food Institute and EIT Food have a mission in common: empower the consumer to be actively involved in improving the food chain. 

Together with 178 participants, from 13 European countries, we co-created 12 key themes that play a role in influencing consumers to eat more healthily, more sustainably, and to be more open towards food innovation.

Data for this study was collected in an online community, in which European citizens took part in a total of 40 (mini-)assignments. Over three periods of 5-10 days, the community members took part in open discussions, photo assignments, short questionnaires, and polls.

Findings in a nutshell:

The ‘secret’ formula

Together with the participants  we co-created 12 strategies that can play a role in influencing consumers to eat more healthily, more sustainably, and to be more open towards food innovation. The aim of these strategies is to help (re)build trust in the food system, as well as spark ideas for innovation.

These twelve strategies come together in a simple formula:

Trust = (Transparency & Control + Simplicity) x Love

For each element of the formula we developed a number of strategies that actors in the food chain can follow in order to build trust, including best practices and examples of organisations already applying these strategies. 

Transparency & Control

Currently, consumers lack the means to exert control over the food chain. They need to rely on the food chain actors themselves and authorities to check. This theme is about making the food chain transparent, so that everyone can see what is happening.

Associated strategies:

  • Radical transparency
  • Full clarity
  • Power of community
  • Sensible logos

One reason for lack of trust is that, for a lot of different kinds of food, it’s simply too difficult to understand how it’s produced and where it’s from. This theme is about increasing simplicity to make it easier to know what good food is.

Associated strategies:

  • Simplicity
  • Short supply chains & hyperlocalism
  • Tangible sustainability
Building love

If you love a person, you are willing to invest time into getting to know that person. It’s the same with food. And we don’t mean the shallow cravings one can have for a certain food at a certain moment, but a deep and genuine affection for (a certain) food.

Associated strategies:

  • Education
  • Curiosity
  • Trial made easy
  • Modern nostalgia
  • Influencers

The aim of these themes is to help (re)build trust in the food system, as well as spark ideas for innovation.

The full report contains many insights about actors in the food chain and the preconditions for changing consumer behavior. 

Download a snapshot of the report here:


Would you like to access the full report? 
Get in touch!

  • Online Community

  • Strategy & Positioning

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Future of Food institute. Who are they? Interview Marketing Tribune

Future of Food Institute. Who are they?

August 17, 2020 – Interview by Peter van Woensel Kooy, senior editor, branding-expert MarketingTribune.

Link to the original Dutch article

What opportunities and threats do you see for food brands?

A paradigm shift is taking place in the food chain. Sustainability is a competitive advantage (or a disadvantage for the brands that don’t move along). New food technology companies are entering markets with new products and new earning models. Previously unthinkable products and services are successfully finding their way to the market. Think of products based on insects and brands that deliver directly to the consumer. But also consumers who have started to produce their own food with the help of a cooperative. Technological progress offers many opportunities for sustainability in the food chain, but also facilitates new connections between the links in the food chain. This, combined with increasing sustainability awareness, makes the food world one of the most interesting fields of activity for marketeers at the moment.

In the coming years, the world population will increase and will have more money to spend. Globally, the market for food is growing by around 5% per year. A huge opportunity for food brands, but only brands that combine sustainability with consumer preference will grow’.

Do you think there is a need for change?

Yes. The food chain is widely seen as one of the causes of the climate crisis. Food security is under threat, because we simply don’t produce enough food to feed 10 billion mouths. In addition, our current food system is linked to common diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and various types of cancer. The good news is that at the same time our food is part of the solution. A lot is already happening in the field of sustainability.

The European Union is coming up with the ‘Farm to Fork’ program, a comprehensive reform plan for agriculture and the food system. Nutrition is also high on the agenda at the UN. 10 of the 17 SDG’s (sustainable development goals) relate directly or indirectly to sustainable consumption and production of food.

What is the big idea behind the Future of Food Institute, founded in 2018?

Ultimately, it is the consumer who decides what is successful. It is only when more sustainable food is on his plate that impact is achieved. Knowing how to seduce and support consumers in making more sustainable choices is therefore more important than ever. Because successful brands combine being good for the planet with gaining consumer preference.

Our mission is to help accelerate the transition to a more sustainable food system, with the consumer as the driving force. We do this by providing knowledge and insight into the consumer. What are the drivers? What is stopping them? For example, we know from large-scale research that it is very difficult to get people to adjust their behaviour based on abstract motivations, which is ‘a better climate’ for many at the moment. But we also know that there is a substantial group of consumers who are quite willing to consume more sustainably, but most of all want to benefit themselves immediately. Those people buy vegan products because it’s hip and trendy. There is also a large group that wants to consume more sustainably, but doesn’t know how. For this group it is important to take them by the hand, for example by informing them about what exactly sustainable choices are.

Good question: how do you define sustainable food? 

Sustainability has many sides. For example, something can be sustainable from one point of view, but not from another. Think of Tony’s Chocolonely. They have profiled themselves as the brand that makes the chocolate world sustainable by offering fair prices to the producers. But you can ask yourself whether the product chocolate itself is so sustainable. It comes from far away and it contains a lot of sugar.

Sustainability mainly has to do with the use of scarce resources. In particular, it is about no longer depleting the soil and increasing diversity. But it also has a socio-economic component and health is an important one. The tricky thing is that experts do not always agree on what exactly is sustainable. And most consumers have only a limited idea of what is sustainable.

According to FoFI, what is the impact of the corona crisis on sustainable consumption?

Covid-19 has increased sustainability awareness by exposing the vulnerability of our food system. It has led to an increasing demand for healthy food and the need for a more resilient food system. We see all kinds of initiatives emerging on a local scale. Think of local producers working together to set up a meal box. Farmers who open a drive-in greengrocer’s. The crisis is fueling inventiveness in people.
However, looking at consumer behaviour as a whole, we see little impact. People have started to eat something healthier. Just because there was more time and attention available to prepare the food. For the individual consumer, sustainability is hardly higher on the agenda’.

How do you help food brands?

With the insights we offer, we help food companies develop the right products, for the right consumers, with the right message. Encouraging consumers to make sustainable choices is not the same as influencing buying behaviour with traditional marketing tools. It requires specialist knowledge and deeper insights. There is a big difference between what people say and what people do in the supermarket. In many categories we see the whole market dynamic changing.

We help brands to understand these dynamics and to discover the new rules of the game. For example, we now know that the consumer’s perception of what is sustainable does not match what experts know to be effective. Consumers underestimate the impact of meat consumption and overestimate the impact of packaging. If you know this in your category, you know how to tell a sustainable message and how to turn sustainability into brand preference.

One area we pay a lot of attention to is nudging, i.e. unconsciously influencing buying behaviour. If you can promote sustainable choices with the help of subtle interventions in the food environment, that’s great of course. Together with the National Fruit and Vegetable Action Plan, we are researching all kinds of nudges in different environments. What works and what doesn’t? And what does a restaurant visitor actually think about trying to influence their behaviour? By mapping the effects on both sales and visitor experience, we learn a lot. Knowledge that food marketers can use to stimulate sustainable choice within their own target group.

What are your further plans?

Very simple: make impact. If we deliver useful insights, brands can make sustainability more successful, for example by hitting the right chord in an advertising campaign. Or because they bring product innovations to the market that are picked up by consumers more quickly. And given market demand, we expect to grow rapidly. And growth goes hand in hand with making an impact. The more successful we are, the more impact we can make.

A large-scale consumer survey in 7 European countries is planned for the autumn. Last year we did this survey only in the Netherlands, but we’re getting more and more questions about the state of affairs in other countries. How far is the consumer? What can marketers learn from this? What are best practices? With the help of sponsors, we can make the research available free of charge to anyone in the food sector who wants to make it more sustainable.

In addition, we can offer all kinds of regular market research that other agencies also do. Think of innovation research, communication research, etc. We can answer any ad hoc research question in the field of sustainability. Where we are different from other agencies, our drive for sustainability is an absolute specialization in that area. This gives us a lot of specialist knowledge about the sustainable consumer.

Finally, we are building a research community. A group of consumers that we can regard as front runners. By doing research among these front runners, we know what works and what doesn’t work. Moreover, they can keep us informed of what is going on.

  • Quantitative Research

  • Strategy & Positioning

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Increasing demand for organic food

How can we boost demand for organic foods?


Bionext, Dutch Organic Trade Organisation


Gain insight on how Dutch consumers perceive organic foods and find an intervention that will effectively stimulate the sale of organic foods. The insights were used in a press-release to kick-off the Biokennisweek (Organics knowledge week) 2022.

Our approach:

We designed a questionnaire which among other things included a mini communication experiment: participants were shown three different messages about organic food production. They were then asked about their attitudes and willingness to pay a 10% or 20% mark-up for organic versus ‘regular’ foods. We also shared our pre-existing knowledge about perception of organic food from the Food Forum, our conscious consumer community.

Findings in a nutshell:

Consumers are willing to pay more for organic food, if they understand why organic food is more expensive. Consumers who learned that organic agriculture is more expensive for farmers to maintain, for example due to labour intensiveness as well as more living space for animals, were more likely to view organic products positively than the control condition (75% vs 52%) and pay the 10% mark-up (45% vs 35%).

Picked up by media:

  • Quantitative Research

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Online Nudging Leads to 7% Higher Sales of Fruit and Vegetables

With the Ga Voor Kleur Lab (Choose Colour Lab),  the Dutch NAGF (National Fruit and Vegetable Action Plan) has investigated how buying fruit and vegetables can be stimulated using nudging: little pushes in the right direction to change behaviour. Does nudging work for online shoppers? The answer is yes. With an increase of 7% in vegetable and 6% in fruit purchases, this second Ga Voor Kleur Lab with Hoogvliet Supermarket has shown that nudging in an online environment can be very effective!

The online Ga Voor Kleur Lab

During 6 weeks in May and June 2021, visitors of the Hoogvliet website or app were randomly assigned to an intervention group (who were shown the nudges) and a control group. A number of different nudges were applied, including add to card suggestions and  plant-based recipes. Future of Food Institute analysed more than 10.000 purchases consisting of hundreds of thousands of products to understand the effects of the nudges that were applied.

What were the results?

The results of the study were very positive:

  • the nudging group bought 7% more vegetables and 6% more fruit. Both in volume and units.
  • the number of varieties of vegetables bought increased by 7%.
  • the total number of customers buying fruit and vegetables was only slightly higher in the nudging group for fruit, by 3%.

Though the design of the study doesn’t allow for in depth analysis of the effects of most individual nudges. However one nudge that positively stands out is the addition of add-to-cart suggestions. This was especially the case for really relevant combinations, such as iceberg lettuce with shawarma bread or kiwi with yoghurt.

Measuring customer experience

Finally, a small fraction of online customers were surveyed to measure perception of the nudges and the effects on the customer experience. This showed that 15% of respondents were aware of the extra attention paid to vegetables and fruit. The vast majority thought it was a good thing and only a small minority thought it was annoying (8%). In particular, normative nudges such as the ‘fruit and vegetable meter’ were found to cause irritation in a small number of cases. This shows that the more subtle the nudge, the less likely it is to cause resistance. It also stresses the necessity to keep track of the user experience and make sure it doesn’t suffer from nudges that are too conspicuous.

Read more here (in Dutch).

Download the full report here (in English).

Download the short report here (in English).



We help sustainable food companies to innovate faster and communicate with more impact. We do this by offering accessible and crystal clear consumer insights

We love working with mission-driven food companies and non-profits that have a positive impact on society and our planet. Together we empower consumers to make food choices that are good for them as well as for the planet.

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