New insights into consumer-oriented food products design

A.I. Almeida Costa

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


  • To test the implementation of the most promising methods and tools associated with the early phases of a consumer-oriented approach to food product design;
  • To improve the tested methods, or develop new ones, whenever necessary;
  • To use the results obtained to propose research guidelines leading to an improved implementation of consumer-orientation in food product design.

Home Meal Replacements (HMR) were selected as the category within which to carry out the theoretical and empirical research necessary to the achievement of these aims.

In Chapter 1 a critical analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the implementation of consumer-oriented product design in the food industry is performed. Some drawbacks affecting this implementation are highlighted:

  • The lack of sufficient evidence demonstrating that consumer-orientation indeed leads to more successful product development (and in what circumstances);
  • A prevailing clan mentality, preventing the empathy and co-operation necessary to a successful implementation of cross-functional approaches;
  • Few concrete implementation methodologies and guidelines.

Chapter 2 critically reviews published reports of the implementation of Quality Function Deployment (QFD) - a consumer-oriented, technical knowledge system used in NPD activities - in the food industry. QFD's contributions to consumer-orientation in product design are concluded to be:

  • To indicate what market and technical information companies should collect and internally disseminate on a regular basis;
  • The fact that it forces people from different functions to come together and focus their thoughts on how to develop products that better satisfy consumers' needs.

Chapter 3 presents the development and validation of a consumer-oriented classification for Home Meal Replacements (HMR) based on convenience attributes. This tool is expected this tool to provide valuable support to companies' product design processes by highlighting potential gaps between supply and demand.

Chapter 4 is devoted to qualitative research techniques that can be employed in the collection of consumers' needs. The application of classic focus group and in-depth interview techniques in the study of Dutch seniors' perceptions regarding HMR highlighted some of its virtues and shortcomings. Chapter 4 also demonstrates how the combined used of collages and focus groups can become an effective tool in the collection of both the more immediate and the underlying needs of consumers.

A literature review and an empirical application of the means-end theory and laddering technique (MECL), described in Chapter 5, illustrate the possibility of moving beyond the mere collection of consumers' needs towards a better understanding of their underlying motivations. A study of the resistance of certain consumers to convenience-related innovations in foods is also described in Chapter 5 . Preliminary empirical findings confirm the hypothesis regarding the existence of a negative attitude towards HMR that is, to a certain extent, related to moral norms.

Chapter 6 reports preliminary findings showing that consumers structure their knowledge about HMR based on categorisation criteria which are different from those employed by food experts in a similar choice task. Evidence supporting the idea that consumers experience difficulties in categorising more innovative products, especially when this implies the creation of new cognitive categories, was also found.

Chapter 7 recaps the thesis' main findings, draws some conclusions and suggests avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Jongen, Wim, Promotor
  • Rombouts, Frans, Promotor
  • Dekker, Matthijs, Co-promotor
Award date2 May 2003
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs9789058088208
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • product development
  • innovations
  • consumer behaviour
  • market research
  • consumer preferences
  • convenience foods
  • meals


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