New food and eating solutions bring vitality to consumers

19/03/2018

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed digitally supported innovative food services and concepts to promote wellbeing from eating. Based on a strong consumer-centric approach, the national research project, Vital Selfie, aimed to support the food industry in developing and launching targeted wellbeing solutions for various consumer groups globally. 

Consumers are often confronted by difficult choices when in grocery stores, or visiting vending machines and cafeterias: they have the knowledge and desire to choose nutritionally balanced products, but something else often ends up in their baskets, or on their trays. Availability or choice often leads to the selection of products that are not as healthy as desired, particularly when seeking on-the-go and convenient food and snacks.

Easy food and dining options

The three-year Vital Selfie project coordinated by VTT, alongside the University of Eastern Finland and Aalto University, aimed to increase the vitality of consumers through easy food and catering choices.

The project developed solutions for various consumer segments and situations in which consumers have conflicting feelings when choosing food products. A wide range of products and services related to the food and catering industries were studied, ranging from logistics and distribution solutions to the impacts of different environments and applications that monitor eating.

Examples of concepts, which will help consumers to find the vitality and wellbeing they are seeking from food and eating more easily, include a smart vending machine that customises snacks, an IoT packaging indicator, and solutions that will enable self-monitoring of eating rhythm. In addition, research based on eye movement tracking cameras can be used to develop 'push' sales methods for food and catering solutions that support a balanced diet.

Background studies included consumer and market surveys

VTT designed the Vital Selfie service concepts on the basis of consumer surveys and focus groups, and market studies, conducted in Finland and partly abroad. In the survey, consumers were segmented on the basis of the barriers they experienced in pursuing vitality. As a result, four consumer segments were identified, two of which ("Vital and capable" and "Busy with vitality conflicts"), were considered key to the development of Vital Selfie service concepts. The focus group study investigated in-depth vitality as experienced by members of the segments, their ways of achieving vitality, and the connection between their consumption habits and vitality.

Based on the consumer insight obtained, VTT developed new healthy eating concepts. The concept creation and evaluation work was performed on a multidimensional basis and using consumer-participation methods, so that new solutions could be directed at just the right consumer needs.

The food vending machine of the future

The concept development process provided effective support for the development and evaluation of various solutions. During the process, five concepts were selected for piloting out of around 50 pre-concepts. One of these is a food vending machine of the future which enables consumers to order a healthy snack according to their own preferences and needs. Thanks to promising results, together with Finnish companies VTT will continue developing a vending machine that produces personalised and healthy food products through the Food My Way project.

Towards holistic wellbeing and vitality

"We are interested in exploring how food might create wellbeing and vitality as part of a larger entity; for example, how to integrate food and catering solutions more closely with occupational wellbeing and exercise services. The goal is to create holistic wellbeing and vitality: we know that food is an important component of this whole. We have a strong belief in building new, successful business models by cross-industry collaboration," says VTT's Emilia Nordlund, head of the research team and the Vital Selfie project.

The overall budget of the three-year Vital Selfie project, which was completed at the end of 2017, totalled EUR 2.5 million and the project formed part of Tekes' (now Business Finland's) 'FiiliksestÀ fyrkkaa' (Feelings) programme. The University of Eastern Finland and Aalto University also participated in the research and development project, which was coordinated by VTT. Private-sector partners included Valio, Raisio, Sinebrychoff, Fazer Food Services and TBWA. Kesko participated in the project in 2015.

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