Demand for microsystems in the food sector

 

Consumer perception

1) Regarding the use of food microsystems, consumers show a relatively neutral opinion. This implies that at this moment in time there will be little worry about introducing food microsystems systems, but that it is also unlikely consumers will be willing to pay any price premium for products produced with or incorporating food microsystems in the product or package.

2) Some issues are identified where concern of consumers may occur. If communication of food microsystems is about the technology at large or very limited in scope, this may create concern about control of the technology, and uncertainty about future consequences. On the other hand products created and communicated as further developments of existing microelectronics, rather than a completely new technology (such as nanotechnology) may make it possible for consumers to link food microsystems in their minds to existing, reasonable trusted, technologies such as electronics. This may reduce likelihood of unexpected concern.

3) Some health concerns are voiced related to possible contamination of food products as a consequence of microsystems in the production process. Consumers in particular imagine toxicological (chemical) contamination (by transmission of e.g., metals from production line or packaging involving microsystems into food) or physical contamination as a consequence of parts of the microsystems breaking up, and ending up in the final product. Thorough control of finished products on foreign particles and chemical contamination might take away these concerns.

4) Some worries were voiced in relation to consequences outside the immediate food production chain. Consumers voiced worries that high tech microsystems would benefit larger companies over smaller, more highly educated consumers over lower educated people. Environmental damagesas a consequence of microsystems embedded in packaging ending up in the environment were foreseen as a potential problem. Malicious use to track consumers after purchase (privacy violation) was also considered a possible negative consequence.

5) Benefits of relevance to the end user were seen in after-purchase safety control of the cold chain. In the shop, however, food safety is considered the task of the retailer, so no end-user benefit was seen in relation to in-shop safety. Product level allergen detection was considered a potential benefit for allergic people, as well as product level ingredient declaration accessible through modern ICT means (e.g. smart phones).

6) To implement food microsystems as an official quality control mechanism, consumers show limited trust towards the food chain. Consumers would prefer some kind of oversight on the application of food microsystems in the food chain for example by the microelectronics providers, a certification body or a governmental agency.

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Further reading
D3.2.1 Report on existing literature regarding consumers perception (main author: Wageningen University)
D3.2.2 Report on focus group on consumers acceptance (main author: Wageningen University)
logo pdf Consumers perception: literature review
logo pdf Consumers acceptance: focus groups

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