This research was conducted as part of the ‘iNOBox’ project which began in 2018, is funded by the Research Council of Norway (NFR), and is due to conclude in 2022. Read more about the project here.
The food industry has made large scale improvements to ensure food is longer lasting without compromising on overall quality, taste experience or nutritional content.
New processing technologies are at the heart of this development, including the use of high pressure technologies, microwaves, UV light, pulsed electric fields and ultrasound.
Technologies with several benefits
Most commonly, these processing technologies are not discussed out of a fear that unwanted consumer reactions may be triggered. However, given that these technologies offer many benefits and that consumers are increasingly technically competent, the time may be ripe to assess the use of modern processing technologies and their benefits in marketing communication strategies.
Nevertheless, it remains a point of uncertainty as to where this use of technology should be communicated. It can be difficult to make decisions relating to whether or not information about use of these technologies should be included on packaging.
We have therefore drawn up a research-based guide that can help businesses when making these kinds of decisions.
How we developed the tool
During the development of this tool, we followed a seven-step process inspired by approaches to developing new products. When you develop a new product, you use development loops to ensure that it will be worth investing in future development stages. In this case, we deployed two loops to hone our decision-making tool prior to its finalisation.
We began with a thorough literature review of existing knowledge about consumers’ acceptance of innovative food processing technologies. We learned that some technologies are more easily accepted than others, and that this depends on which product categories the technologies are used in.
This overview also illuminated where knowledge was absent. Our aim was to fill this knowledge gap through a consumer survey in which 1,200 Norwegian consumers took part. The established knowledge and the new insights provided by the survey were used to create a trial version of the decision-making tool.
We sent this to food manufacturers who tested it and used it to make decisions about product ideas and relevant communications with the market and their customers. We also received plenty of useful feedback about the tool’s usability.
We then ran a new survey with 600 Norwegian consumers. Participants were able to see products that included and did not include the information in question. The results showed that information about some technologies were more easily accepted than others, while information about the advantages of using technologies was well-received by all participants.
This second survey allowed us to tweak the final version of the support tool. We have named it the Beslutningsstøtteverktøy for markedskommunikasjon (MCDST) [Decision-making tool for marketing communication].