Author: Eva Hoogstins

Conviviality and tradition more important than price or sustainability during holiday meals

Conviviality and tradition momentarily more important than price and sustainability

holiday meal

December is the time of the year that people associate with cold and dark, but also cosiness, lights, warmth and the holiday season. We wanted to find out more about the role of food during the holidays, and what people pay attention to when deciding what to eat for their festive meal. So we asked our Food Forum community. A total of 49 participants gave us an insight into what the holidays look like for them.

Everyone has a different way of spending the days together. One participant names decorating the house, being fully in the festive mood and being together around the Christmas tree. Some participants name gift-giving, making a sumptuous meal, or just sitting on the sofa with a Christmas movie.

“I celebrate with friends and family. Cosying up around the Christmas tree and the fireplace, giving each other gifts, and then having a nice dinner together.” Eva

Companionship and meal sharing

For many participants, eating a meal together is an important moment and something that comes with it every year. Where some opt for an elaborate feast with the whole family, others are more likely to choose a smaller gathering, as long as it is with the people they care about.

“I often celebrate the December holidays with family. Not too big, but just small and cosy. We do like traditions, so we think something like a buffet or gourmets really do belong to Christmas.” Bob

Not everyone wants to spend as much time and effort on the meal,. Therefore, the choice is then made to share this burden with the whole party, in order to still have a fully set table.

“We usually do an “American style” dinner, so everyone makes a contribution and that saves a lot of work and we do have a nice meal together which everyone likes.” Tiny

Eating out is also an option for many, especially on Boxing Day. This means not having to think up a menu, spend time in the kitchen or clean up after the meal.

Even if there is actually no time for it, participants still choose to make the most of it, with the Christmas thought in their heads.

“I almost always have to work (work in a hotel) and so does my flatmate (read: my sister). We try to just enjoy the possible few free hours we have with each other: doing fun games, munching on some goodies.” Bianca

Supermarkets are an important source of inspiration for the holidays

Most participants actively look for meal ideas around and during the holidays, and supermarkets are a source of inspiration for finding festive recipes for many of them.

“I already have an idea about the full menu and have put together the menu based on super tasty products and info I discovered in supermarket advertising.” Sandy.

In the Netherlands, all major supermarkets are giving attention to plant-based dishes for Christmas this year. Albert Heijn, for instance, has a fully vegan magazine with recipes on its website, and supermarkets like Jumbo, Lidl and Aldi also have a vegetarian category with recipes.  However, recipes centred on fish or meat are still the most promoted, on both websites and magazines. And this is reflected in the choices participants make for their festive meals.

What should not be missed at Christmas?

For most, the main course is meat. One of the frequently mentioned must-haves is gourmetting, where you prepare your food with everyone at the same time and choose what you like.

“I think gourmet is really something that suits Christmas and then finish with a nice bowl of ice cream. Not difficult, but cosy.” Nicolette.

There are only a few participants who will consciously not eat meat this holiday season.

“Trying new dishes, preferably with different vegetables and without meat.” Mark

Other must-haves that should not be missed according to participants are mainly sweet dishes, such as desserts. Examples mentioned include: biscuits, chocolate tiramisu, stewed pears, ice cream cake and plum pudding.

Most participants choose to cook and eat their familiar, traditional dishes during the holidays, or a combination of traditional and new.

A chance for chefs to showcase their skills

For a smaller group of people, the Christmas holidays are the time of year to go all out. Among cooks, there are participants who like to stick to their traditions, but also those who like to experiment.

“We think it would be fun to cook a three-course dinner for us together. We love trying new things and extensive cooking.” Romy

What do they pay attention to when planning a meal?

Even though community members have previously told us that they have adjusted their weekly shopping to the price hike, when it comes to meals during the holidays, the price was not mentioned once. Apparently, conviviality may cost something.

Participants did say they take into account what their guests like and can eat. Over the years, the number of vegetarians and vegans has increased, as has the number of people avoiding gluten or lactose, which makes cooking a little more challenging.

“An extra challenge this year, as we now have a gluten-free and lactose-free family member in addition to vegetarians.” Ellen

Sustainability momentarily less important

Judging from their description of the festive meal, participants did not explicitly consider sustainability. There was no explicit mention of reducing or avoiding eating meat during the holidays. A single participant said not to prepare too much food to avoid throwing it away (or eating the same thing for 3 days). So the climate impact of the festive meal does not seem to be a concern for participants during these specific days.

For most participants, the holidays are a time to get together with family and friends, eat together and, above all, not stress about sustainability, finances, or messing up a very complicated or new dish.

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Rising food prices: how Dutch eating behaviour is affected

Are Dutch eating patterns altered by increasing supermarket prices?  

The recent inflation has caused a surge in food prices in supermarkets and other food distribution points. We studied how inflation has affected Dutch consumption behaviour. 


This study was completed on our own initiative to study recent trends in the food industry.


The price increase on average 18.5% on products in supermarkets is a reality for consumers. To what degree has this influenced the food shopping behavior of consumers? What are the main changes?  

Our approach:

We ran small-scale study in our Food Forum, concerning the role of price in buying food in The Netherlands. Ninety-eight participants filled out a poll, supplemented by a forum discussion where 60 participants interacted with each other and the answers that were given.   

Findings in a nutshell:

The majority, namely 58% of the participants in the study, indicated that their grocery shopping behaviour has changed because of price increases.  

More private labels

The adjusted purchasing behavior means for most participants an increased attention to weekly discounts and buying private labels. These are deemed just as good as the A-brands that the supermarkets offer, but for a lower price. However, the participants do declare that it should not be at the expense of other properties of food (such as taste and health).  

“I sometimes try private label, but I refuse to compromise on taste or quality, and I have increased the number of vegetables, fruits and herbs that I grow on my balcony and windowsill”.  Nancy

Compromises on convenience 

There is a minority of the participants that buys larger packs of non-perishable goods and freezes perishable goods. On top of that, a number of the participants describe an increase in self-sufficiency, baking their own bread and growing their own vegetables and fruits. They avoid pre-cut vegetables and complete meal packages, to save money. 

Focus on discounts 

The folders with weekly offerings are checked more profoundly and are used to plan the meals for the coming week. Participants choose to invest more time in doing groceries, to be able to save money.  

“I use the different folders of different supermarkets to make a list, letting my week menu depend on the discounts offered”. Linda 

Products that are discounted because of an approaching expiration date and the so-called ‘misfits’ are bought in increasing numbers, to counteract the waste of food, but most of all to save money.  

Less luxury 

Approximately one-third of the participants indicate that they think more profoundly about the need for certain unnecessary luxury products, like candy and crisps. These will not be bought, or bought less, to save money. The focus is therefore placed on the preservation of quality and taste of essential products, instead of luxury products. The luxury products are now predominantly purchased for special occasions. 

The 42% of the participants who indicate that they have not changed their purchasing behavior, mostly say that they already were very price conscious when buying food. 

“I have not actually adjusted the way I do groceries, because I was already a price-conscious buyer, that will not be drastically changing. Perhaps I will leave some unnecessary things out”.  Micha

The keyword that emerges, considering the changes in the purchasing behavior of consumers, led by the increasing product price is consciousness. Consumers think more consciously about what is necessary for a healthy diet, try to replace the needed products with cheaper versions and do not buy products that are not needed.   

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Is funny packaging compatible with high-quality beer?

Is funny packaging compatible with high-quality beer?


Uiltje, beer brewery


Uiltje asked to gain insight on how Dutch beer drinkers (real aficionados as well as regular drinkers) view ‘fresh’ beer and the benefits it offers. Furthermore, to understand whether Uiltje is perceived as a high-quality beer, and whether its comic packaging gets in the way of that. 

Our approach:

We gathered a group of beer fans from our online community, Food Forum. These members participated in a series of online activities, including polls, online discussions and photo assignments. Participants were recruited through a professional research panel.

Findings in a nutshell:

We helped Uiltje by giving them a better understanding of how their target audience views the brand, and how to communicate the high quality of their beer – in a way that fits their style.

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Testing a new concept: Plenty! the artisanal plant-based grocer

Testing a new concept: Plenty! the artisanal, plant-based specialty shop


Friek van Helden, FoodHelden 


The client was at the early stages of developing the concept for Plenty! and wanted to validate her assumptions.

We were asked to learn whether her intended target audience was indeed the most fitting for this concept, to what extent they found it appealing, and how the concept could be strengthened.  

By testing her concept at such an early stage, she could show to potential investors at her upcoming pitch that her idea was validated and improved on the basis of consumer feedback. 

Our approach:

We designed a series of activities in our online Food Forum, in which participants could express their wishes and needs in relation to eating less meat. In particular, we looked at the role that healthy and tasty meat-alternatives can play, and in which ways a specialty shop can fill the “meat gap”. 

We also looked at whether this new concept is clear, and perceived as innovative and different enough from what already exists on the market. The overall appeal, strengths and weaknesses, and willingness to visit this shop (and under which conditions) were also discussed. Finally, we also tested the name, and whether participants believe it fits the concept. 

Findings in a nutshell:

Altogether, the concept of Plenty! is clear and appealing. Particularly the fact that it would be a completely plant-based shop, and that it aims to fulfill both the health and sustainability wishes of its clients. 

Participants absolutely see a need to better meat-replacements, including ones that are less processed, and have a less “chemical flavour”. This is where Plenty! can really make a difference.

However participants showed concern about the pricepoint of this shop, and expressed worry about the present increase in prices in the normal supermarkets, let alone specialty-shops. 

Finally, the name Plenty! brought up different associations that the name is intended to. 

Feedback on our work:

“The online panel of Future of Food Institute helped me to identify the potential of the concept and to understand the drivers and barriers behind it. It strengthened the pitch I gave about the concept within the Food Forward Track organised by Rabobank. It gave good insights on what we need to improve on the concept to make it even more successfull. It was pleasant to follow the answers and interactions of the respondents within the community as a silent observer. It’s clear that they really feel safe within the community to answer openly.” 

– Friek van Helden, Concept Owner

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Trendwatching with the help of Wageningen University students

Trendwatching with the help of Wageningen University students

Academic Consultancy Training

Four to five times a year we guide a team of talented students from Wageningen University in searching for (worldwide) trends within a specific category in food or topic within sustainability.  Together we analyze the underlying currents that lead to these trends. This project takes place in the context of the students’ Academic Consultancy Training course.

Are you looking for opportunities to fill your sustainable innovation pipeline? In that case, our trendwatching program can help with invaluable thought-starters to bring inspiration and fresh ideas in your process. Ask us about how we can help. 

You can read about our first project on Ambient Foods here.

Together with a fresh group of students, we are currently working on the topic of Green Claims, the results of which will be publicly available in December 2022. 

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More power to the Pieper!

More Power to the Pieper!


NAO, the Dutch Potato Organisation, in collaboration with our partner Food Cabinet


Understand Dutch consumers’ attitudes towards, as well as knowledge and consumption of potatoes. The insights were used in a press-release to kick-off the National  Aardappelrooidag (potato harvest day) 2022.

Our approach:

We designed a questionnaire to understand Dutch consumers’ buying and eating habits of potatoes. Next to that, we also addressed the topics of sustainability (in potato farming), knowledge about and relationship with farmers and agriculture, new potatoes, and children and families. And on top of that we also assessed feelings and associations that consumers have with potatoes.

Findings in a nutshell:

Even though 81% of Dutch consumers eat potatoes at least twice a week, about a third (of all consumers) are not aware where their potatoes come from.

At the same time, potatoes are not seen as a food that is good for the planet, with only 15% of consumers describing them as ‘sustainable’. 

Most parents (73%) want their children to know where their food comes from, making the ‘Nationale Aardappelrooidag’ a wonderful opportunity to show them. 

Picked up by media:

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How to make algae a dietary staple

How to make algae a dietary staple



We were asked to uncover to what extend European consumers are familiar with algae as a food, and consider it to be tasty, healthy, and sustainable. Furthermore, we were asked to find out how to optimise the potential acceptance of algae, and whether messaging about its taste, sustainability, or health would be most persuasive.  

This work forms part of a series of studies to gain consumer insights which are important for EIT Food and the EU.

Our approach:

We began by interviewing 7 experts working with algae and algae-based products. With their expertise we developed hypotheses about the appeal of algae, and tested them with 111 consumers from 18 different countries in the Citizen Participation Forum. With a combination of questionnaires, polls, online discussions, and photo assignments we uncovered participants’ perceptions of algae. 

Findings in a nutshell:

We found that most participants were familiar with algae as a food, and many of those had already tasted it. Those who did not were reluctant due to negative expectations about taste. 

Algae is seen by most as a healthy food, partly because it is perceived as plant-based, and is associated with a high mineral and vitamin content. The protein content of algae is not as widely known as we expected.  

Furthermore, algae was not thought of as a particularly sustainable food, but the messaging about algae’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was received very positively. 

We extracted seven lessons for making algae-based product innovations a success, which you be read in the report. 

Download the free report here

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Consumer Trust in the Food System: The EIT Food Trust Report 2021

Fewer than half of European consumers trust the food system



Since 2018, EIT Food has been studying the issue of consumer trust in the food system and the role of trust in adopting innovations. How motivated are Europeans to make healthy and sustainable food choices? To what extend, and under which conditions, are they open to food innovation and technology? 

Our approach:

We conducted three studies in the Citizen Participation Forum, the European online community. Together with participants from 18 different European countries (total of 232 participants) we discussed food innovation, sustainability issues in the food chain (e.g. excess packaging), and ways to improve trust in food authorities. 

We synthesized our findings together with the large quantitative study of 20,326 consumers (in the same 18 countries) that took place in 2021.

These findings and insights are presented in the annual Trust report of EIT Food. 

Findings in a nutshell:

76% of Europeans are motivated to live a sustainable life, however only 51% of Europeans take sustainability into account when making food choices.

Less than half of Europeans have confidence in the integrity of our food products, and the food chain actors that have earned the highest levels of trust in Europe are farmers. 

Picked up by media:

Download the full report here:


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Why market research firms should care about sustainability

Why market research firms should care about sustainability 

The number of publications by market research agencies on the topic of sustainability spiked during the Glasgow COP26 Climate Change summit. But the trend I noticed goes beyond some well-planned media moments. Ipsos and Kantar, for example, have dedicated a large section of their website to sustainability. Why does the market research world suddenly seem preoccupied with making the world a better place?  

The reason market research firms should care about sustainability is that it will be one of the most important themes for marketers in the coming years. Every self-respecting brand will have to make clear choices about what its contribution to a better world is. Because consumers are demanding it. Or, better yet, because the brands themselves want it. But wherever the desire to become more sustainable comes from, a successful approach to sustainability is no easy task.  

More difficult 

Getting a sustainable message across is much more difficult than a “normal” marketing message. Because in reality, sustainable marketing means that you want to entice consumers into behaving in ways they don’t really want to. Think of giving up long far away holidays and they will only benefit from behaving sustainably in the long run and even then, their individual benefit is minimal. 

And at the same time, sustainable consumption is no longer something for the frontrunners. An increasingly large number of consumers would like to make more sustainable choices. But a large proportion of them do not succeed in doing so. Due to lack of knowledge, lack of supply or because they are repeatedly tempted to make the unsustainable choice. 

The big battle or the big opportunity 

How difficult sustainable marketing is can be read in the book ‘Het grote gevecht’ (The big battle) by Jeroen Smit about the struggle of Unilever CEO Paul Polman to make the multinational more sustainable. During his reign, Unilever’s impact on the planet has been reduced in many ways. But nowhere does it become clear how Unilever is able to convert all those sustainability initiatives into consumer preference. Even Unilever’s marketers, whom I hold in high regard, failed to do so. And as long as consumers don’t buy more of your more sustainable products, being sustainable costs (a lot of) money.  

But if you succeed in getting consumers to choose your more sustainable products over those of the competition, then sustainability is a way to earn money (and make the world better at the same time). In this context, think of dutch Chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely, which has turned an idealistic objective (‘slave -free chocolate) into its distinctive brand asset. And by doing so has become one of the largest chocolate brands in the Netherlands. 

Knowing how to entice consumers to make more sustainable choices is crucial if you want to be a sustainable brand. You need to understand their choice architecture and know their motivations and barriers. Only then can you successfully influence their choices. Crystal-clear consumer insight paves the way to a world in which we use scarce resources in a sustainable way. No wonder, then, that market research firms have discovered sustainability. 

More fun! 

And there’s another important reason. Working for clients who value their social goals over their finances is much more fun, interesting and worthwhile for researchers. So if you want to attract talented researchers, then as a research company you cannot escape making a choice about which clients you would rather work for and which you would rather not. After all, if you are a young talented graduate who gets to choose, would you rather work for a cigarette brand or would you rather work for a start-up with a societal impact goal? The agencies that offer their staff the chance to contribute to a better world will be able to attract the best people.  

Good for the world and the industry 

So I’m pleased to see that the market research community is embracing the theme of sustainability. Because this is good for the sector. And for the world, if we succeed in helping marketers achieve their sustainability goals. 

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Events & Conferences

Events & Conferences

We love to share knowledge. In the past, we have been invited to speak at:

Future of Food Conference 2021, by EIT Food where we talked about how we can tackle food dis- and misinformation.
Download the report of the event here:


Beeckestijn Business School where we talked about sustainable marketing and how to encourage the consumer to make the sustainable choice.

MVO Nederland where we showed how to innovate in a consumer-centric way.

Marketing Minds where we explained the importance over crystal clear insights for sustainable companies

Would you like us to speak at your event? Get in touch to discuss the possibilities!

  • Strategy & Positioning

  • Innovation

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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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