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      Consumer Engagement Labs

      The Consumer Engagement Labs are pre-competitive co-creation sessions carried out by a group of consumers (selected based on specific segmentation criteria) in a joint place and limited in time, focused on ideation and development of new product concepts.

      Unlike typical sensory panels and consumer surveys, the Labs do not involve testing of sample products but the creation of innovative, not-yet-existing combinations of product features and benefits. The RIS Consumer Engagement Labs methodology was developed by the University of Warsaw, relying on the knowledge of specialists in anthropology, psychology, consumer behaviour, and innovation management, and has been further validated with academic and industrial partners. It draws on the principles of design thinking and gamification to address the challenges of the European food system. In 2021, the methodology was successfully extended beyond the food product development and adjusted to address environmental challenges (design of more sustainable packaging for takeaway meals).

      Between 2019 and 2023, the Consumer Engagement Labs involved 25 scientific organisations and 55 companies, including universities, research institutes, food retailers, food producers, start-ups, food service providers and packaging companies from 19 European countries. The local consortia gained specialist training and advice, access to the Labs methodology and toolsets, as well as support for new product commercialisation, and worked with consumers to deliver local Labs sessions. The counts of beneficiary organisations are growing every year, with further consortia gaining access to the Consumer Engagement Labs methodology and implementing local co-creation processes.

      Labs 2019

      In 2019, the Labs were piloted in Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, and Spain, engaging consumers aged 60+. During two intense workshop sessions combined with home assignments, the participants navigated a dynamic process of analysis of the older adults’ needs and the development of new food product ideas. The goal was to create new, exciting food products that would meet their requirements. The Labs’ methodology encouraged the participants to use their wisdom, nurture creativity and make friends with each other.

      The final roundtable focused on the most promising ideas for new products and gave space for the cooperation of consumers, food companies, scientific partners, and non-governmental organisations, jointly delving into the foodways of older adults.

      Labs 2020-2021

      In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and sanitary restrictions, the interactive methodology of Labs was adapted to the online delivery in 10 other countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia). The follow-up Labs sessions devoted to the cooking and shopping experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and packaging were conducted in the online format in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain in 2021.

      Circular Economy Labs 2021-2022

      In 2021, consortia from two countries – Serbia and North Macedonia – participated in the pilot co-creation processes focused on developing the food packaging. The COVID-19 pandemic increased the popularity of the takeaway meals, which in turn translated into more food packaging waste. The creative processes involved local scientific organisations, food services providers and packaging companies, and most of all, consumers, helping identify potential improvements in meal packaging to promote sustainability and circularity in the sector. The goal was to design innovative, sustainable packaging for the traditional meals that usually are more difficult to pack and transport than fast food. The collaboration between restaurants, packaging companies and consumers led by local scientific organisations concluded with successful market introductions of two innovative packaging prototypes.

      In 2022, the methodology was being rolled out to other European countries, selected in an open call: Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, and Lithuania. The successful approach to addressing circular economy challenges was tested in various local culinary traditions. It lead to the design of more sustainable and innovative packaging for takeaway meals appreciated by consumers due to the convenience of transport, use and disposal.

      Labs 2022

      In 2022, the project involved the implementation of Labs addressing the needs of young people aged 15-19, combined with the creative inputs from the groups of parents and grandparents of older adolescents. The workshops aimed at proposing innovative and healthy plant-based snacks for older adolescents.

      Labs 2023

      Starting from 2023, consortia applying to deliver Consumer Engagement Labs define their preferred societal challenge and target group of consumers, alignment with the EIT Food strategy, missions, and impact pathways.

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