The Connect4Action project began three years ago to connect researchers across different disciplines, improving communication to increase the success of new food technology developments and commercialisation – and, ultimately, to improve consumer acceptance of novel foods. It finishes at the end of this month.
Currently 70-80% of new grocery product introductions in Europe fail. The project says that apart from being a waste of investment, failed products may also mean lost opportunities to tackle societal problems, such as health and environmental issues.
Project coordinator and project manager at LEI Wageningen UR in the Netherlands, Karin Zimmerman, said Connect4Action had identified several ways that food technologists and new product developers could improve their chances of market success.
“Within the food industry, one of the success factors is to identify and involve all key actors in the idea stage of the development of the new technology,” she said.
“Another success factor is to develop a common language and shared visions between actors. Food technologists and consumer scientists should get a mutual understanding about the new technology and what it can bring.”
Uncertainties and ethical concerns
All those involved in NPD should “provide transparent and balanced information about uncertainties of new technologies”, and consider consumers’ social and ethical concerns at the same time, she said.
The project analysed existing communication strategies, including barriers to communication when it comes to NPD, and conducted interviews and workshops with experts to develop tools for improving communication.
The innovation process was often at risk of being hindered by overly formalised procedures, she said, but the team found it was also important to have some formal procedures in place to allow innovation to progress.
The project has developed a series of tools for those involved in the food innovation process, including a glossary of key terms for food development, a searchable database of consumer responses to new technologies, and a discussion forum.
Those interested in the outcomes of the project can find more information via the Connect4Action website.
All European food technologists and consumer scientists are welcome to join the dialogue, Zimmerman said.