Antien Zuidberg (HAS): ‘Biodiversity must have a favorable factor in food’

The project ‘Biodiversity on your plate’ is an initiative by Dutch Cuisine, LTO-North and the Norwegian Nature and Environment Association. HAS has been hired to carry out part of the research. And that part is made by Antien Zuidberg, professor of Design Methods in Food, and Daan Groot, professor of Earning Capacity for Nature-Inclusive Agriculture. “We primarily look at the value of biodiversity. How will these products find their way to the consumer? How does the consumer know the difference, because you cannot see from the product itself that it has been grown differently. It is important to think carefully and creatively about this,” explains Zuidberg.

According to design thinking, the introduction of a new product consists of four phases: researching the needs of the market and the consumer in advance, coming up with the idea, the design and the testing phase. “We investigated in advance where the consumer’s needs lie. Then you have to test whether the product fits that need. Then you test several times whether you are on the right track.”

Gun factor

Over the past forty years, a lot of time and energy has been invested in quality brands, but according to Zuidberg, consumers are not that concerned about this at all. “That’s why I don’t think there should be new quality brands. We know that regional and organic have a favorable factor. Biodiversity also has that potential. It is becoming increasingly important to eat food with as much positive impact on the environment as possible.”

In addition, these products can be linked to both quality labels and non-certified producers who make a positive contribution to the conservation and/or restoration of biodiversity, or who are demonstrably committed to doing so. “By not only opening up the concept to, for example, EKO or Demeter, we want to realize a movement towards more biodiversity-friendly.”

Participates organically and regionally

Therefore, it is important to think carefully about how you want to promote your product. “Which target group do you want to appeal to? What is the added value of your product? In the area of ​​biodiversity, our advice is to link to organic and regional to clearly tell the story behind the products. Mention the diversity promoting farmers by name, explain what they do and why it is so good. Why is it so important to choose this product? It takes a lot of time and energy, but you need examples. Putting biodiversity on the map will create a better revenue model and more farmers will want to get involved. It works like a flywheel. This creates a new future for farmers.”

Building a brand

Make sure to link biodiversity to a specific brand (not a quality label), she advises. “You can build a brand together with other entrepreneurs. It is not only about entrepreneurs who do the same as you, but especially people from other links in the chain or from other product chains. Together you can create a very interesting collaboration. The Duinboerne are a good example of that.”

A good revenue model is needed for the introduction of diversity-promoting products in the restaurant industry. “Companies are often afraid to charge extra money for it, but if consumers see added value, they’re also willing to pay more for it.”

Nudging can help

Nudging can also help. “Nudging is invisible. Your behavior is unconsciously guided. Therefore, you should always do this in an ethical way. Nudging can be very valuable. For example, our students have tried to make healthy food more tempting in our canteen. Nudging was one of the techniques. The students have changed the order on the counter. The healthy products were given more space and placed in a central place, with great emphasis on beautiful frames. It worked really well. Much more fruit and salads were sold without changing the range. “

Marketing campaign important

Design and taste also play an important role. “Make sure your sustainable products look super attractive and also taste great. With most products, that works best.” Sometimes, however, sustainable products have a persistent negative image. “People do not find insects attractive to eat at all, and products with seaweed are also difficult to market. It can take up to twenty years before these products are widely accepted.” A good marketing campaign is also important. “A campaign like this does not necessarily need to run through national television. Active use of channels such as influencers and social media works well if you want to target young people.”

Observational consumers

Observe consumer behavior, advises Zuidberg. “Visit the food hotspots and see how people react. Take a critical look and try to figure out why certain products work or don’t work well.” Another tip: “Look at your products from an outsider’s point of view. As an entrepreneur, you often find yourself in your own bubble. Most importantly, talk to your customers. I prefer not to talk about the consumers, but about the consumers. Talk to each other. That’s where it starts. Maybe you can come up with something beautiful with them. Often the insights of others are underutilized. People likes to think along. Invite them.”

Seeing the future in lupine beans

Zuidberg will soon start a new project ‘Protein-rich vegetable innovative food concepts’. This is a collaboration between Dutch Cuisine, HAS, Deltaplan Biodiversity Recovery, WWF and Naturalis. For this, grants have been received from the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. LTO is not part of this consortium, but it was one of the founders of the idea.

How have we stocked our fridge? What choices do we make?

“We are looking at new Dutch vegetable proteins,” explains the lecturer. “It is not about meat and milk substitutes, but in fact about new meal concepts with good nutritional value and protein compositions. We see a lot of future in lupine beans and other beans. The leaves of certain vegetables are also very high in protein, while nothing is done with them yet. It can also provide perspectives for farmers.”

HAS will carry out various surveys, both in the retail trade and at consumers’ homes. “How did we fill our fridge? What choices do we make? We will work on that for the next four years. With a focus on consuming healthy and sustainable food.”

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