Food and Consumers: Current Issues and Future Directions

Professor Iain Fraser

A food and consumers research forum was held at the University of Kent on Friday 6th April, the same day in which the UK’s so called “sugar tax” came into effect. The event was organised by Professor Iain Fraser (Economics), Professor Ben Lowe (KBS) and Dr Diogo Souza-Monteiro (Newcastle University). Around 30 people registered for the event and speakers came from all over the UK and Europe. We were delighted that Professor Klaus Grunert (Aarhus University, Denmark) could join us to deliver his keynote speech on “Consumer food quality perception and food choice: The rise of credence qualities and the role of labelling information”. Professor Grunert is a world leader in the area of food marketing and consumer behaviour and the talk focused on marketers’ use of credence attributes such as healthfulness, sustainability and authenticity in positioning new food products. Other presenters spoke around emerging consumer related themes in the food domain including food security, the influence of food labels, take away food consumption, food policy choices, individual consumer processes and the role of technology in conveying more relevant food related information. Some fascinating insights emerged on the role of different research methodologies to reveal more about consumers and their behaviour with respect to food.

This was a truly interdisciplinary event with speakers and attendees from economics, marketing, psychology, sociology and public health backgrounds. The interdisciplinary approach attracted some lively discussion during and after the forum and allowed linkages to be drawn between food policy, consumption and the changing environment within which food is acquired, consumed and disposed of. It is great to see such enthusiasm and interest in a topic which affects us in so many different ways. So, lots to do and plenty of food for thought!