Systems thinking in managing the success of food products: exploring the potential of a system dynamics approach

Andrijana Horvat

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


The development of new food products has been a major driver of growth for food industry. However, it has been challenging for food companies to develop products and it is common that new products fail among consumers on the market. Since consumers’ wants change over time, we recognized a need to use an approach that can capture those changes to increase product success chances. In this thesis, systems thinking and system dynamics approaches were employed to develop qualitative models and quantitative simulations. Such models increase understanding of causal mechanisms that affect food product performance (e.g., sales) by uncovering and modelling feedback loops as sources of dynamic changes in performance. In chapter 2, we describe research about the use of consumer data and methods among European food companies and we show that system dynamics is rarely used. In chapter 3, we present results of a literature review, which intended to uncover feedback loops relevant for food product management in new product development and in the product life cycle. In chapter 4, we present how system dynamics simulation modelling can be used to increase understanding of causal mechanisms leading to adoption of radical new products (i.e., insect-based burgers). Lastly, in chapter 5, we employ a group model building approach and we develop a system dynamics model for improving food product management of an existing product (i.e., a healthy fruit snack). Systems thinking and system dynamics have a potential to be used to uncover knowledge gaps, to increase understanding of complex dynamic problems, and to improve cross-functional collaboration in food industry.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Luning, Pieternel, Promotor
  • Fogliano, Vincenzo, Promotor
  • Behdani, Behzad, Co-promotor
Award date29 Aug 2019
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463950138
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Systems thinking in managing the success of food products: exploring the potential of a system dynamics approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this