AgriFoodTop Symposium 2018: ‘Emotion, key to the consumer’

1 October – Emotion, key to the consumer was the theme of the AgriFoodTop Symposium 2018, held June 6 in the Dutch city of Zwolle and hosted by Top Sector Agri & Food and TiFN. Over 300 representatives of industry, academia and government attended the event, finding inspiration and meeting new and existing contacts.

“The emotions a food product evokes have everything to do with the confidence you have in it”, stressed neuroscientist and behavioural researcher Erik Schoppen in his key-note lecture. “When we are free to choose, almost always we go for a well-known brand, simply because we are familiar with it and, to some degree, trust it.”

Buying a particular brand is also a statement. “You do not just buy coffee at Starbucks, you buy an emotion, a feeling. It is the brand with which you connect, not the product. And consumers are willing to pay for that.” Schoppen explained that it is important for food producers to connect with their consumers. “Confidence in a brand arises in a split second, and more increased insight for consumers into the chain can lead to more confidence.”

A sustainable and healthy choice
The second speaker, TiFN’s Managing Director Dr Ronald Visschers, deepened our understanding of how to support consumers to make healthy and sustainable choices when facing the bewildering complexity of the health and nutrition authorities’ ‘jungle’. “Where do you get your information on health and sustainability? From your parents, the store manager, the doctor or the Voedingscentrum (Dutch Nutrition Center)?”, he asked the audience. “The reality is that we do not know who to turn to for the right advice on healthy and sustainable foods.”

Offering insight into the choices a consumer makes in a particular setting, Dr Gerry Jager (Food-Evoked emotions: How to measure and model them and what do they add to liking?) and Dr Betina Piqueras Fiszman (The role of context in consumers’ responses) gave the audience an overview of their research.

200 decisions per day
Jager, who has also investigated the effects of packaging and product colour, explained that consumers make about 200 food decisions per day, each in a split second. Colour seems to play an important role in choosing a product. “We prefer ‘the real work’, think of sweet, salty or fatty products”, she explained. “And colour appears to have a signalling function.” The darker the colour, the greater the perceived fat content of the product. Red evokes expectations of sweetness, and consumers rate red products as sweeter than non-red products of identical sweetness.

Piqueras Fiszman’s research showed that contexts clearly influence how the product is experienced. “The more the product and its context have in common, the more-positive are consumers’ feelings about the product.”

The event continued with a series of parallel sessions, with the first series focussing on TKI Agri & Food’s five key themes: Consumer and Society, Climate Neutral, Healthy & Safe, Circularity, and Smart Technology. The second series examined the latest developments in agrifood: improving food production sustainability; meat from bull calves, roosters and goats; and opportunities in international markets for small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

Final Ecotrophelia
The day closed with the Dutch final of the eco-innovative food creation competition Ecotrophelia, in which four student teams battled-it-out for a ticket to the European final. Team Panggies from graduate school Van Hall Larenstein was the winner of the Dutch final, with their veggie pancake mix. In October they will travel to Paris to represent the Netherlands at the European final.

Couldn’t make the symposium or would like to revisit the presentations? Click here.