Become your own food detective

A local food ingredient, like Dutch shrimps, can sometimes travel half-way around the world to be processed (e.g., peeled), to another country to be packaged, just to end up on your plate*. With our current food system, supply chains are long and complicated. What if you could trace the food you’re eating back to its origins? 

On the packaging of a food product, it is sometimes possible to see what the origin of a product or ingredient is. For instance, when you buy an organic product, the packaging may give information about whether an ingredient is from one specific country, or whether multiple ingredients from many countries are involved. This, however, does not explain the product or ingredients’ journey.

In the study summarised below, we explored what information consumers are hungry for when they look at food packaging, how much they trust the information they see, and recommendations for food traceability.


University of Reading, supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.


Understand Dutch consumers’ attitudes towards information on food packaging and their desire to trace foods back to its origins.

Our approach:

A qualitative study took place in the Citizen Participation Forum with 56 participants across 17 different countries in Europe. The participants were recruited through a professional panel. Participants completed a range of activities, including a questionnaire and took part in multiple interactive discussions. 

Findings in a nutshell:

Most of the participants trust the information that they read on food packaging, but not completely. On the one hand participants believe that food packaging information is controlled and checked following EU regulations and rules, so their perception is that information can never deviate too much from the truth. On the other hand, participants believe that marketing claims can cause packaging information to be untruthful, so one should not fully believe what they read.

Many want to know where their food comes from. Participants believe that local foods are more sustainable, and sometimes even that local foods are healthier. So, traceability is a product attribute that participants greatly value.

However, how much information participants crave, does depend on the category of products they are looking at. For fast foods, participants are not keen on traceability information. But, for fresh products like milk and eggs, participants find traceability and transparency very important, and even more so if they are sustainability minded.

So, the traceability of food (ingredients) is important for consumers. Food items that are marketed as sustainable would benefit most from making the product as traceable as possible.

*For the article about Dutch shrimps and their journey, click here.

Find out more:

Contact us to find out more about the results, or how we can tailor consumer insights to your product or company. 

We believe that understanding consumers is key to making the food system more sustainable. Successful innovation and impactful communication require a solid foundation of consumer insight. 

We are the insights partner of choice for food companies and non-profits  that aim to 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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