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Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92

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Cool snacks: A cross-disciplinary approach to healthier snacks

for adolescents
Klaus G. Grunert a, *, Steen Brock b, Karen Brunsø a, Tenna Christiansen c,
Merete Edelenbos d, Hanne Kastberg e, Stinne Gunder Strøm Krogager f,
Line Holler Mielby d, Karen Klitgaard Povlsen g
Aarhus University, MAPP Centre, Bartholins Alle 10, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Aarhus University, Department of Culture and Society, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 7, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Langelandsgade 195, DK-8200 Aarhus N, Denmark
Aarhus University, Department of Food Science, Kirstinebjergvej 10, DK-5792 Aarslev, Denmark
Technological Institute, Gregersens Vej 1, DK-2630 Taastrup, Denmark
Aalborg University, Department of Communication, Nyhavnsgade 14, DK-9000 Aalborg, Denmark
Aarhus University, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, Helsingforsgade 14, DK-8200 Aarhus N, Denmark

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Young people snack and their snacking habits are not always healthy. We address the questions whether
Received 16 June 2013 it is possible to develop a new snack product that adolescents will find attractive, even though it is based
Received in revised form on ingredients as healthy as fruits and vegetables, and we argue that developing such a product requires
6 October 2015
an interdisciplinary effort where researchers with backgrounds in psychology, anthropology, media
Accepted 11 October 2015
science, philosophy, sensory science and food science join forces. We present the COOL SNACKS project,
Available online 22 October 2015
where such a blend of competences was used first to obtain thorough insight into young people's
snacking behaviour and then to develop and test new, healthier snacking solutions. These new snacking
solutions were tested and found to be favourably accepted by young people. The paper therefore pro-
vides a proof of principle that the development of snacks that are both healthy and attractive to ado-
lescents is possible if based on an interdisciplinary, concerted effort.
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction clearly also a role for new product development. If young people
prefer less healthy snack products, somehow the existing more
Snacking, defined as food consumed between the three main healthy alternatives seem to appear as less attractive to them. There
meals (de Graaf, 2006), is an important part of the daily life of is no reason to believe that healthier alternatives are not chosen
adolescents. Snacks are among the first food products that ado- just because they are healthier. It is thus worth asking whether it is
lescents buy with their own money for consumption outside a possible to develop a healthy snack product that adolescents will
family context (Brown, McIlveen, & Strugnell, 2000; Nicklaus, find attractive.
Boggio, Chabanet, & Issanchou, 2004). Often snacks have a high Developing such a product should be based on a thorough un-
content of saturated fat, salt and refined sugar, and the public derstanding of the target group, its snack preferences and the de-
debate suggests that adolescents tend to eat too much unhealthy terminants of these preferences. The importance of consumer
food resulting in negative consequences for public health such as insight in the new product development process is scientifically
obesity and lifestyle-related diseases (Christensen, 2003; Fagt et al., well-established (e.g., Im, Nakata, Park, & Ha, 2003), widely
2004). Public concern has given rise to numerous initiatives, mostly acknowledged in the industry, and has led to a range of tools for
using informational and educational tools, which aim at encour- consumer-oriented new product development (Grunert et al.,
aging people to choose healthier alternatives. However, there is 2008). Still, there have been no breakthrough successes in the
development of healthy snacks for adolescents. We believe this is
because of two major hurdles. First, the dominant approach of
* Corresponding author. analysing food preferences as a result of individual deliberation is
E-mail address: (K.G. Grunert). generally limited (Ko€sters, 2009), but may be especially limited in
0924-2244/© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
K.G. Grunert et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92 83

the case of adolescents choosing snacks (Weijzen, de Graaf, & product in a transparent and systematic way where competencies
Dijksterhuis, 2008). It is now widely accepted that food choice is enabling customer insight and competencies enabling food pro-
to a large extent governed by habits and routines (van't Riet, duction interact. The point of departure of the COOL SNACKS
Sijtsema, Dagevos, & De Bruijn, 2011) and that attempts to project was therefore that such a development process is an
change behaviours therefore need to be analysed not only based on interdisciplinary task, i.e. a task combining insight from the social
an analysis of the deliberate formation of preferences, but also on sciences and humanities to obtain a deep understanding of ado-
an understanding of how the environment in which such choices lescents' existing snacking behaviour, and then supplementing this
take place influence decisions (Dolan et al., 2012). There is also understanding with insight from food processing technology and
reason to believe that snack choices of adolescents are heavily logistics to arrive at a solution that is both technically feasible and
influenced by social interaction in peer groups (Nørgaard, Hansen, attractive in the minds of adolescents. The project aims therefore to
& Grunert, 2013), a phenomenon that, while acknowledged, has demonstrate that the development of such a product is possible if
received only limited attention in research on consumer food the right set of competencies is combined in the process. Fig. 1
choice (Kuenzel & Musters, 2007). Second, even the most careful summarizes the COOL SNACKS project work flow.
consumer insight study does not give clear directions as to how the The rest of the paper follows the structure of Fig. 1. We first
new product should look like. It needs to be translated into a report a series of studies that had the aim of understanding ado-
technologically feasible product specification, and earlier attempts lescents' current snacking behaviour, leading to a set of re-
to formalize this process have had only limited success (Benner, quirements that a healthy, fresh fruit and vegetable-based snack
Linnemann, Jongen, & Folstar, 2003). The necessary interplay of would need to fulfil for adolescents to regard them as attractive. We
different disciplines in new product development has received then describe how this set of requirements was transformed first
considerable attention in the innovation management literature into product concepts and then into physical prototypes, taking into
(Jacobsen et al., 2014), but there are few documented cases on how account a number of technological and logistical constraints. Then
these different disciplines indeed can play together in successful we show how the COOL SNACK solutions were tested in a real-
product development. world school setting. We close with perspectives for user-driven
In this paper we present the COOL SNACKS project, which was development of healthy food products.
an attempt to develop a healthful snack solution based on fresh
fruit and vegetables perceived as attractive by 10e16-year old ad- 2. Putting snacking behaviour in context
olescents. The project was based on the assumption that devel-
oping such a product is possible if it is based on an understanding of In order to successfully develop new healthy snacking solutions,
adolescent snack choices that looks not only at individual prefer- we formed an understanding of adolescents' current snacking
ences but also at daily routines and choice/consumption environ- behaviour through a range of mutually complementary studies: an
ments, and if the insight thus generated is turned into a physical analysis of adolescents' individual choices of existing snack

Fig. 1. Work flow in the COOL SNACKS project.

84 K.G. Grunert et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92

products, snacking habits and media use, and snacking behaviour indicate that no single product dominates the choices made, and
as part of general school routines. that any new product with wide appeal therefore will be difficult to
construct around one main ingredient.
2.1. Choice of existing snack products We also investigated whether different segments of adolescents
choose different types of snacks, as consumers are not all alike
A quantitative study of adolescents' (11-16 year-olds) individual (Grunert, 2002; Ko€ ster, 2003). Fig. 3 depicts a Principal Component
choices of existing snack products was conducted in a school Analysis (PCA) plot of snack choices and their relation with back-
setting (in four urban and four rural schools in Denmark, for details ground variables.
see Mielby, Edelenbos, & Thybo, 2012). Twenty-one unwrapped As can be seen, there was a gender difference in the choice of
snack products available on the Danish market were presented snack types. Boys chose the more filling, baked sweet and savoury
unwrapped to participants, as we were not interested in the effects snacks, whereas girls chose fresh fruit snacks. This is in agreement
of packaging or branding information. The study thus provides with existing literature on adolescents' preference for food
information on snack preferences as revealed in snack choices. including fresh fruit and vegetables (Cooke & Wardle, 2005; Le
The snacks covered seven categories: Bigot Macaux, 2001; Nu, MacLeod, & Barthelemy, 2007; Reynolds,
Hinton, Shewchuk, & Hickey, 1999). Less clear tendencies were
 Sweets (wine gum, liquorice, chocolate) seen with regard to urbanity, while no major relationship was
 Crisps (potato crisps, popcorn, salted peanuts) found for the adolescents' age. The full details of the study are re-
 Nuts and dried fruit (mixed, unsalted nuts, mixed dried fruit) ported in Mielby, Edelenbos, and Thybo (2012).
 Baked sweet snacks (muffin, chocolate chip cookie, rum ball) In summary, adolescents chose both unhealthy and healthy
 Baked savoury snacks (mini pizza, sausage roll) snacks, and choices are gender specific. Boys chose more filling
 Fresh fruit (grapes, banana, apple, pear) while girls chose less filling snacks. Gender specific choices and
 Fresh vegetables (mini carrot, mini cucumber, cherry tomato, preferences were also found in other studies exploring adolescents'
sugar pea) preferences for fruit and vegetable snacks (Mielby, Jensen,
Edelenbos, & Thybo, 2013; Mielby, Kildegaard, Gabrielsen,
These snacks were picked based on interviews with adolescents Edelenbos, & Thybo, 2012; Mielby, Nørgaard, Edelenbos, & Thybo,
about their perception of snack products (‘what is a snack?’) and 2012).
from screening for available snack products in Danish supermar-
kets. Snack choice data was collected for 387 adolescents. Back- 2.2. Snacking, food habits and media use
ground data on the adolescents such as age, gender, level of hunger
was also collected. The study of snacking, food habits and media use consisted of
The results of the study showed that grapes, rum balls, mini twelve focus groups and ten individual in-depth interviews in the
pizzas and apples were chosen most frequently (7e18.6% of all 4th and 9th grades (10e11 and 15-16-year-olds) at various schools
choices made), whereas salted peanuts, mixed nuts and popcorn in mainland Denmark (for details, see Krogager, 2012). Only three
were chosen less frequently (.8e1.8% of all choices made) in this focus groups included adolescents of both genders, the other ones
school setting (Fig. 2). The fact that adolescents chose a combina- were either all boys or girls. The main purpose of the interviews
tion of relatively healthy (grapes and apples) and unhealthy snacks was to get the adolescents to talk about their daily routines as
(rum ball and mini pizza) is encouraging considering adolescents' regards food consumption and media use, to discuss food and
general snack consumption (Piernas & Popkin, 2010; Savige, media preferences, and to relate this to snacking behaviour. The
MacFarlane, Ball, Worsley, & Crawford, 2007). The results also focus group interviews were structured around creative and

Fig. 2. Adolescents' snack choice frequency (%) based on 21 snack products available on the Danish market. Modified from Mielby, Edelenbos, et al., 2012.
K.G. Grunert et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92 85

Fig. 3. PCA plot of adolescents' snack choice frequency among 21 snack products available on the Danish market and their relation with background variables. Modified from
Mielby, Edelenbos, et al., 2012.

practical elements and competences. First participants were asked The results of the study suggested that a collective conclusion
to report on their food intake ‘yesterday’ and on their media use about adolescents as food consumers and media users is impos-
‘yesterday’ and then to talk about their food and media preferences sible. Adolescents are as diverse as adults in terms of food and
in general. In this process, adolescents were asked to make media media use and preferences. Gender turned out to be a major
co-productions (Thomson, 2008): Collaborative visual works using discriminator with regard to daily media routines and preferences
media representations of food. The younger participants (10-11- and everyday food consumption and preferences. It seemed that
year-olds) made collages of food pictures from a sample of maga- there are only a few common denominators in boys' and girls'
zines, flyers and catalogues. Collages are well-suited to supplement media use as regards preferences for digital media, TV and print
verbal data collection techniques with media-related visual ele- media. Not surprisingly, digital media played a central role in ad-
ments (Buckingham, 2009) and are regarded as well suited to olescents' everyday routines. However, girls and boys seemed to
investigate the more hedonic aspects of consumption (Belk, Ger, & use these media for different purposes: Girls focused on social
Askegaard, 2003). The older group (15-16-year-olds) made media networks, Facebook, mobile phones, Skype and other similar ser-
campaigns in support of and against single food items such as vices and boys used digital media for game playing.
chicken or hamburgers. Each focus group was divided into two When it comes to food preferences, boys and girls crave
smaller groups that had to agree on a food item and then produce different things. Boys love meat of every kind, and meat sometimes
slogans for a) a healthier eating campaign and b) commercial ad- worked as a social stimulus in the conversation. The collages pro-
vertisements. This part of the study showed that adolescents' duced by 4th grade boys focused on big roasts and sausages. In
knowledge on healthy and unhealthy food items is indeed broad contrast, girls talked about fresh fruit and berries and cakes; in our
and that they are well-informed media users that are able to mimic study, girls often made collages with aesthetic representations of
media campaigns and even make humorous and creative fresh berries, sweets and decorated cakes. Most boys and all girls
embellishments. demonstrated diverse competences related to food, taste, quality
As a last component of this study, adolescents were allowed to and health as they were cutting and pasting their collages. Boys
snack while talking and doing their creative work. On the table related especially to pictures of recognizable and real food, whereas
there were four bowls with fresh vegetables, fresh berries, cinna- girls also appreciated visual aesthetics and were often competent
mon buns and sweets, representing more (vegetables and berries) producers of aesthetic collages.
and less healthy (buns and sweets) snacks. The bowls were not The campaigns produced by 9th graders negotiated a wide range
introduced to the adolescents, but when boys or if girls asked if of mediated discourses about food. The discussions that unfolded
they were allowed to try some, they were invited to do so. Some of when the adolescents had to agree on a food item showed that they
the girls never asked if they could try some and we had to introduce were competent users and negotiators of normative public dis-
the snacks. courses and media debates about food quality, nutrition awareness,
The design strived to prioritize saying as well as doing in an and animal welfare. They would mimic well-known slogans with a
attempt to capture both adolescents' attitudes to media and food, as twist of humour and irony. Adolescents had explicit and very
expressed in their verbal expressions, and their actual practices in detailed knowledge of nutrition and healthy food, but were mainly
connection with media and food, as expressed by the action-based interested in experiments with alcohol and traditional snacks. They
parts of the design, i.e., collages and media campaigns (Reckwitz, reproduced normative views in the group, but talked about
2002; Schatzki, 1996; Schatzki, Knorr-Cetina, & von Savigny, breaking the rules outside school, and they had intimate knowl-
2001; Warde, 2005). edge of media discourses and advertisements of alcoholic
86 K.G. Grunert et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92

beverages and fast food products. They seemed to prefer unhealthy number of ways (Harre , 1991). First, there was the capability of
food and media products relating to them, but with a twist indi- appropriating physical places, such as places to sit and eat, thus
cating their awareness that they are out of bounds. The actual realizing a kind of ownership towards these places. Second, there
snacking practices were also structured around routinely accepted was the capability of demonstrating and manifesting social re-
normative presuppositions; all groups ate the fresh vegetables first, lations to staff, friends, and e surprisingly e a variety of family
then the berries, thirdly cinnamon buns and lastly the sweets. This bonds (for more details see Brock & Kayser-Nielsen, 2009). Third,
practice applied to both boys and girls across ages, and it was ar- there was the capability of expressing personal interests and
ticulated as the snacking played out. All groups talked about the preferences facing both peer groups and family. Fourth, there was
candy as the most desirable snack e but all adolescents ate the the capability of standing as a unique individual, where the indi-
healthier fresh fruit and vegetable snacks first and the sweets at the vidual adolescent's self-concerns were displayed bravely or
end. shamefully without challenging the social dimensions of a given
The study showed that the daily media routines and food con- snacking situations.
sumption patterns differed according to gender and age. Across age, In relation to all four kinds of capabilities, a quality assessment
girls and boys had different preferences for food and they of the food and snack products in terms of convenience, taste,
demonstrated a large set of competences in relation to articulating texture, wrapping, size, and ability to fit certain forms of mobility
their desires. At the same time, they were disciplined and able to was crucial for the adolescents. Particularly we recorded a marked
postpone and negotiate own desires socially e at least in this school interest in products characterized by varying layers or elements
context. each possessing different recognizable tastes and textures. Also,
products with a sprinkled surface were popular.
2.3. Snacking behaviour and daily school routines In terms of perspectives for new and healthy snack solutions,
the results of this investigation thus point at a “plastic” snacking
The relationship between snacking behaviour and general product in the sense that it would allow adolescents to display their
school routines was investigated at four different public schools social competences. Accordingly, purchase and consumption of a
and one private school, as well as in 38 stores and food outlets in snack should involve some kind of personal touch and finish, and
the vicinity of these schools. The schools were selected in order to the product should be shareable. Also it should suit the mobility
get a good coverage of regional differences in Denmark. Adoles- within and across social places and spaces. Finally, the product
cents were interviewed in fifteen small focus groups and ten large should meet the requirements of adolescents in relation to texture
groups in class. A questionnaire, which mapped both adolescents' and assessment of quality.
actual consumption during the day and their preferences if they
could choose freely (i.e., unconstrained by availability and price), 2.4. Key requirements for COOL SNACKS
was answered by 180 participants. We also observed eating prac-
tices in the class room (where much of the eating during school Taken together, the three studies led to the formulation of the
breaks takes place in Danish schools), in the school canteens, at following key requirements concerning the development of ideas
food outlets and stores, and finally we conducted interviews with and concepts for new snacking solutions targeted at adolescents in
staff at the schools and in the stores and food outlets. a school context. The key requirements were divided into three
The resulting data was used to draw a broad picture of adoles- preferences, three routines and one competence:
cents' daily routines and social competences in relation to their
food consumption. It soon became clear that there still is what Preferences
might be called “a lunch box culture” in Danish schools, which P1. Both healthy and unhealthy
means that during the school day most adolescents have access to a P2. Gender-specific preferences as regards taste and energy
lunch box, which is prepared at home, usually by the parents. Such density
a lunch box usually contains a variety of open sandwiches, pieces of P3. Recognizable taste and texture variations
fresh fruit, biscuits, snacks, and sometimes fresh salads. As a Routines
consequence of the Danish lunch culture, consumption of food and R1. Lunch box supplement
snacks in schools from the moment adolescents leave home and R2. Temporal structure
until they return home, has a characteristic temporal structure. R3. Socializing and sharing
Adolescents may supplement what is in their lunch box in different Competences
ways throughout the day in terms of what they purchase, from C1. Continuous negotiation and appropriation
which outlet and who they shop with.
After the first series of observations and interviews we began 3. Development of new snacking solutions
looking for adolescent behaviour in terms of the temptations they
are offered at school, by stores and by outlets in the vicinity of the Development of new snacking solutions consisted of an iterative
schools and how they give expression to these temptations. Thus creative idea and concept generation process followed by concept
we observed and recorded the snacking behaviour of adolescents testing and prototype development. The ideas and concepts drew
both as a supplement to their lunch boxes and as socially compe- on the outcomes of the cross-disciplinary research summarized in
tent engagement with certain groups, spaces, and places. the key requirements and researcher-industry partner collabora-
The five schools visited were very different in terms of geogra- tion to generate both technically feasible and e for the target group
phy, social and ethnic factors. However, the general pattern we e attractive solutions.
found was that at any school, if given the choice and option, ado-
lescents would spend between DKK 30e50 daily on snacking. The 3.1. Idea and concept generation
type of snacks would be wide-ranging. No particular kinds of
sweets, cakes, or soft drinks dominated. If anything, it was the Researchers and industry partners brainstormed in groups to
actual “invitations” and “offers” from the various stores, outlets, generate snack ideas and concepts taking the key COOL SNACKS
and canteens that influence choices. Choice of snack was clearly requirements into account. The ideas and concepts were then
part of the way in which adolescents positioned themselves in a presented and discussed in a plenary session resulting in a total of
K.G. Grunert et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92 87

13 snack ideas and concepts. One of the ideas was “The Shaker” e a boys’ requirement for energy. The dip and sprinkle components
beaker with premixed fresh fruit or vegetables with a free choice of were included to add texture and taste variety to the snack solution
sprinkle which had to be shaken into the beaker before consump- and to give it a personal touch.
tion. Another idea was “Two-in-one” e a combination of something The COOL SNACK concept was tested in several variations by
healthy and something unhealthy and self-indulgent such as apple means of an online survey (for details, see Nørgaard, Sørensen, &
slices combined with a dip. Three of the snack ideas contained Brunsø, 2014). The aim of this test was to uncover whether the
solely fruit, either fresh or frozen. One idea contained stir-fried concept and its variations were acceptable to adolescents and thus
vegetables, and the remaining nine snack ideas combined fresh a feasible steppingstone for further prototype development. A web-
fruit and vegetables with one or more food components such as based, at-home survey including 163 adolescents (10e16 years old,
bread, dip and/or sprinkle. Five ideas and concepts involved a 50% girls and 50% boys) was applied. Informed consent was ob-
personal touch in the composition of the snack which satisfied tained from both parents and adolescents and parents were
adolescents' demand for individuality and also socializing potential instructed that they could help their child with technical aspects of
for sharing the snack with peers. This work yielded a set of rec- filling out the questionnaire, but should not influence their an-
ommendations providing for the key requirements for COOL swers. Previous research has found that from about 12 years ado-
SNACKS (codes in parentheses refer to the key requirements): lescents are capable of handling most common survey techniques
(Guinard, 2000; Le on, Couronne, Marcuz, & Ko €ster, 1999), and
 Satisfying a broad target group of adolescents with various de- within the food area successful use of self-administered question-
mands: Combo snack solutions consisting of various snack naires among adolescents aged 8 þ has been reported (e.g.,
products (P3, R2, R3, C1) Nørgaard, Brunsø, Christensen, & Mikkelsen, 2007; Mielby,
 Individuality and interaction: Personal touch and finish in the Kildegaard, et al., 2012). In the test each variation of the concept
composition (R3, C1) was presented by means of headings and small descriptions com-
 Unstructured meal settings in a social peer-group context: Social bined with visuals of the eating context. Two of the COOL SNACK
events including sharing experience (R1, R2, R3, C1) concepts are shown in Fig. 4.
 Balanced energy density and healthiness: Various snack prod- The results showed that all eight COOL SNACK concept varieties
ucts including bread, dip and sprinkle (P1, P2, P3) were positively evaluated by the adolescents. Buying intentions
 Attractiveness in a novel and familiar way: Various tastes and ranged from 4.24 to 4.98 (1 ¼ definitely not buy, 7 ¼ definitely buy)
textures (P1, C1) and liking from 4.79 to 5.60 (1 ¼ don't like at all, 7 ¼ like very
 Fresh and ready to eat on the go (R1, R2) much) on a seven-point smiley scale. The COOL SNACK concept and
 Constant novelty to maintain loyalty (C1) its variations were thus used in the further prototype development

3.2. Concept development and testing 3.3. Prototype development

From the idea and concept generation process and the set of The adolescents' key requirements, the recommendations from
recommendations, the researchers formed one single COOL SNACK the idea and concept generation process, and the results of the
concept with eight variety options. The concept consisted of concept test resulted in four COOL SNACK solution prototypes: two
different options regarding the type and number of components. solo snack box solution prototypes and two share snack box solu-
The components included: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, bread, dip tion prototypes. Each prototype consisted of different numbers of
and sprinkle. It was understood that fresh fruit and vegetables must components (i.e. fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, bread, dip and
be used and that all components were ready-to-eat. The fresh fruit sprinkle) and types of components in each solution. For the
and vegetable components were chosen to balance energy density development of the four COOL SNACK prototype solutions, ado-
and healthiness while the bread component was chosen to fulfil lescents' key requirements were first translated into new snacking

Fig. 4. Two variations of the COOL SNACK concept tested in the concept test.
88 K.G. Grunert et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92

Table 1
Translation of adolescents' key requirements into new snacking solutions.

Adolescents' key requirements Features for new snacking solutions

P1. Healthy and unhealthy Both healthy and unhealthy elements
P2. Gender specific preferences in taste and energy density Both low and high energy content
Both berries and meat elements
P3. Recognizable variations in tastes and textures Both sweet and savoury tastes
Juicy, crisp and soft textures
R1. Supplement to lunch box A snack versus a full meal
R2. Temporal structure Ready-to-eat elements
Re-sealable packaging of elements
Elements in a box
Elements can be eaten on-the-go
R3. Socializing and sharing Two sizes of the snack box
Several elements in a snack
Many pieces of each element
C1. Continuous negotiation and appropriation Many ways of mixing elements
Combination of several elements
Familiar and novel elements

solution features (Table 1) and then further into prototype com- of pieces in a serving (Table 2). The fresh fruit and vegetables and
ponents and elements. A total of 19 elements were developed mini loaves were considered healthy elements, as they lived up to
(Fig. 5) considering technological constraints and practical impli- standards of the Danish ‘keyhole’, which is a health logo sponsored
cations in terms of production, supply chain and display. The fresh by the Nordic governments. Grapes, pineapples, apples, blue-
fruit component consisted of four elements (white grapes, pine- berries, mini cucumbers, bell peppers and mini carrots were chosen
apple mini sticks, apple wedges, apple wedges and blueberries); to cover different tastes, textures and familiarities (Table 2). Girls'
the fresh vegetable component consisted of four elements (mini preferences for berries were met by mixing blueberries with ap-
cucumbers, red bell pepper chunks, orange and white mini carrots, ples. Mini bunches of grapes and mini cucumbers and carrots were
orange mini carrots); the bread component consisted of four ele- introduced to increase the shelf-life as compared to the fresh-cut
ments (mini whole wheat loaf with rye, mini whole wheat loaf with versions. Orange and white mini carrots were mixed to increase
dried fruit, rye bread sticks with pizza flavouring, bread sticks with novelty.
sour cream and onion flavouring); the dip component of three el- All fresh fruit, vegetable and bread elements could be eaten
ements (sour cream-based holiday dip, mild salsa, caramel); and directly or shared after breaking. The viscosity of the dips at 5  C
the sprinkle component of four elements (liquorice, chopped, un- and the lumping of the sprinkle were technological constraints that
salted peanuts, bacon crisps, pop rocks). made us reject several elements in the prototype development
All elements were ready-to-eat to fulfil the requirements of a phase. To meet boys' requirement for a savoury taste, bread sticks,
temporal structure in snacking, and fresh fruit and vegetables had a salsa and bacon crisps were included in the COOL SNACK solution.
shelf-life of at least 5 days at 5  C. The elements were consumable The bread sticks were spiced with potato crisp flavourings and
on-the-go or could be taken on-the-go as they were individually produced exclusively for the COOL SNACKS project. Caramel dip
packaged in transparent, easy to open and re-sealable Minigrip® and liquorice and Pop Rocks® sprinkle were included to meet girls'
zipper pouches fitted in a lunchbox-type carton. Also dips and requirement for sweet taste. Overall, the dip and sprinkle elements
sprinkles could be taken on-the-go as they came in transparent were introduced to fulfil adolescents' requirements for taste variety
beakers with re-sealable transparent lids. and familiarity and to increase the appropriation or ‘coolness’ of the
Overall, the elements varied in healthiness, taste and texture, prototypes.
familiarity, energy content per serving, size of serving and number The four prototypes were prepared for testing in self-mix and
pre-mix versions. In the self-mix version, all elements in Table 2
were used. For the pre-mix version, the selected elements are
shown in Table 2. In both versions, snack elements were gathered in
a printed six-point glued carton box with a window foil and
separate inserts to fulfil the practical requirement of keeping ele-
ments together at purchase, during consumption and on-the-go.
The box was the result of a joint effort by an advertising agency
and the research group. Green was the main colour, avoiding blue
(boys) and pink (girls) suggesting a specific gender. Pictures of
teenage boys and girls drawn in a style suggesting references to
cartoons and digital game plays were used. This teenage style was
chosen because younger children identify upwards in age (Marcia,
2001; Popper & Kroll, 2005).

4. New snacking solutions in context

4.1. Prototype testing in schools

Fig. 5. Nineteen snacking elements placed in a display cooler for self-mixing in the
prototype test at schools. The prototypes were tested in two rounds with adolescents
K.G. Grunert et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92 89

Table 2
Description of snacking components and elements for new snacking solutions.

Snacking components and elements Components and elements Sensory description Familiarity Energy [KJ/serv.] Size of serv. [G] No. of pieces
selected for pre-mix test of new
snacking solutions

Solo 1 Solo 2 Share 1 Share 2 Taste Texture

White grapes X Sweet Soft Familiar 235 90 20
Pineapple mini sticks X X Sweet Juicy Familiar 186 80 8
Apple wedges Sweet Crisp Familiar 173 90 5
Apple wedges & blueberries Sweet Crisp/soft Novel/familiar 155 80 11
Mini cucumber Juicy/crisp Familiar 50 110 4
Red bell pepper slices X Sweet Crisp Familiar 89 70 7
Orange & white mini carrots Sweet Crisp Novel/familiar 162 100 7
Orange mini carrots X X Sweet Crisp Familiarity 162 100 7
Mini whole wheat loaf w rye X Savoury Soft Familiar 686 70 1
Mini whole wheat loaf w dried fruit Sweet Soft Novel/familiar 700 70 1
Rye bread sticks w pizza flavouring X X Savoury Crisp Novel 328 20 25
Bread sticks w sour cream & onion flavouring X Savoury Crisp Novel 332 20 25
Sour cream based Holiday X X Savoury Soft Familiar 192 20 20 ml
Mild salsa Savoury Soft Familiar 40 20 20 ml
Caramel X Sweet Soft Familiar 280 20 20 ml
Liquorice Sweet Crisp Novel 119 7 Many
Chopped, unsalted peanuts X X X Savoury Crisp Familiar 177 7 Many
Bacon crisps Savoury Crisp Novel 151 7 Many
Pop rocks® Sweet Crisp Novel 113 7 Many
Energy of snacking solution, KJ/snack 694 682 971 1540

(aged 10e16 years old) in three municipal primary and secondary the share snack solution, out of 237 participants with complete
schools in Denmark (two of these were also part of the study on data, no particular combination was chosen by more than five
Snacking behaviour and daily school routines, see above). participants (2.3%). As there are clear differences in the likelihood
In the first round, the adolescents were introduced to the 19 of any particular element to be chosen, this considerable variation
snack box elements (Fig. 5) and were asked to select elements for cannot be attributed to random choices alone, but indicates
two different COOL SNACK solutions e either for a solo snack box, considerable dispersion regarding preferences for variations in
consisting of fresh fruit or fresh vegetables, bread, and dip or taste and texture. The results also suggest that the elements chosen
sprinkle, or for a share snack box, consisting of fresh fruit, fresh were able to satisfy both boys and girls.
vegetables, bread, dip and sprinkle. After having made their se- In the second round, adolescents were introduced to pre-mixed
lection, participants were asked to rate their selection on a seven- snack box solutions. This second round of testing was carried out at
point scale. Participants were then asked to taste the snack, first the same schools with a total of 635 adolescents. Two versions of
with an emphasis on the combination of the selected elements, and the solo box and two versions of the share box were prepared (see
then with an emphasis on the individual elements, and both overall Table 2) by combining those snacking elements that were chosen
liking and liking for individual elements were measured. Finally, most frequently in the first round of testing. All participants got one
purchase intention was measured for three situations (buying of these boxes randomly assigned. Again liking was first measured
alone/with best friend/with peers) using a 7-point scale based on the visual impression of the product. Participants then
(1 ¼ definitely not buy, 7 ¼ definitely buy). A number of back- disassembled the box and tasted the elements, followed by mea-
ground variables (health consciousness, food neophobia, social sures of liking and purchase intention paralleling those of the first
interaction with peers) were also measured. 546 adolescents round of testing. The background measures were unchanged.
participated in this first test. The purpose of this test was to Fig. 7 allows comparing liking and buying intention ratings of
generate data that can be used in decisions about the composition the concept test and the two rounds of prototype testing in schools,
of the two final prototypes, one for solo and one for the share snack where the prototype tests additionally allow distinguishing liking
box. based on visual impression only and liking after tasting. Both are
An analysis of the choices made shows that all snack elements important, as liking based on visual impression will be linked to
were not equally likely to be chosen (Fig. 6). For the solo snack box, initial purchase, whereas liking after tasting will be linked to
there were differences between girls and boys: for the fruit possible repeat purchase. Four conclusions can be drawn from
element, girls were more likely to choose grapes, while boys were Fig. 7. First, liking and buying intention ratings are higher for the
more likely to choose apples, and for the dips category, girls were prototype tests than for the concept test, indicating that the pro-
more likely to choose the holiday dip, while boys were more likely totype development process succeeded in developing the concept
to choose salsa and caramel. For the shared snack box, the only into elements that appealed to the adolescents group. Second, for
significant gender difference was choice of bacon sprinkle (which the pre-mixed boxes, likings based on the visual impression are
boys were more likely to choose). No particular combination came lower than likings when participants selected elements them-
out as more popular than others. In the solo snack solution, out of selves, showing that the COOL SNACK solutions lose some of their
258 participants with complete data, no particular combination attraction when snack boxes are pre-mixed, even when the win-
was chosen by more than seven participants (2.7%). Likewise, for dow foil allows (partial) visual inspection of the content.
90 K.G. Grunert et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92

Fig. 7. Liking and buying intentions in concept and prototype tests.

higher buying intention (mean diff ¼ .46, t ¼ 2.82, p ¼ .00).

Together, these results show that the development of new
snacking prototypes, by their combination of elements with
different tastes, textures, and by including ‘less healthful’ elements
with healthful main elements, were successful in appealing to both
boys and girls.

4.2. New snacking solutions in school context

In analysing preferences for the new snacking solutions, the

research presented at the beginning of this paper underlines the
importance of social context. Snack preferences relate to a social
context in which the individual finds its bearings and navigates in
relation to the environment, social relations, time of the day, norms
and values (Bech-Larsen, Jensen, & Pedersen, 2010). In order to gain
insight into how the snack box was accepted or rejected by ado-
lescents, the snack box was put on the market for sale in three
municipal primary and secondary schools in Denmark in two
rounds. A three-week ethnographic field study using participant
observation (Spradley, 1980) was conducted at the schools by a
team of four anthropologists. The data was further explored by nine
focus group interviews at the schools, which further illuminated
themes from the field work.
The snack boxes sold at the school canteen turned out to be
popular, mainly among the adolescents aged 12e13 years. The
success was partly due to the breaking of snacking routines which
mostly consisted of a variety of bread sold from the canteen. We
further observed that the adolescents were enthusiastic about the
high quality of the fresh fruit and vegetable elements, the different
Fig. 6. Choice frequencies of snacking elements. combinations of snack elements and especially the social aspect of
the snack box solution in terms of the small, bite size pieces of fresh
fruit, vegetables, and bread sticks, which encouraged the adoles-
Third, liking after tasting is at the same level for both testing cents to share the snack box with peers.
conditions, indicating that the loss of liking due to pre-mixing of In terms of price and size, the snack box solution was based on
certain snacking elements is, compared to self-mixing, limited. the assumption that adolescents would share the cost as well as the
Finally, we see that liking after tasting is at par with or exceeds the snack box elements, which turned out to be a highly complex
level of liking based on visual inspection, suggesting that the ex- phenomenon. The adolescents and especially the girls considered
pectations generated by visual inspection are met in the actual food a very social matter rather than as a means to fulfil a physi-
tasting experience. ological need. In the social context, the complexity of social games
There were some slight gender differences. In the self-mix sit- played out was reflected in the use of the snack box. By offering
uation, boys had higher visual liking than girls (mean diff ¼ .27, pieces of snack elements to their close friends, adolescents
t ¼ 2.10, p ¼ .03), whereas girls had higher buying intention (mean confirmed their social relations and by refraining from offering or
diff ¼ .37, t ¼ 2.06, p ¼ .04). There was no difference in liking after rejecting pieces offered, their distance. In order to use the snack
tasting. In the pre-mix condition, there was no difference between box in a social game, they preferred to buy the snack box them-
boys and girls in visual liking or liking after tasting, but girls had a selves, as sharing the cost and the snack box would prevent access
K.G. Grunert et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 47 (2016) 82e92 91

to this social game (Christiansen, Løvschal-Nielsen, & Nielsen, ideas and concepts and subsequently to physical prototypes was
2012). Sharing food in the company of others as a social activity made possible by extensive cross-disciplinary communication be-
contributed to a sense of group belonging (Husby, Hietmann, & tween project members with competences in the social sciences
O'Doherty Jensen, 2006) which seemed to be very important for and humanities, partners with food science competence and in-
the girls. dustry partners.
Like the girls, the boys preferred to buy the snack box individ- The methodological protocols developed and used in the various
ually, but their use of the snack box differed considerably as they studies that formed part of the project are codified and ready for
did not tend to share their snack box. The boys wanted to eat the future use. However, we believe that especially the process in
snack themselves. which we combined diverse sets of skills and competencies to
At the schools, the content of the snack box was discussed and achieve the innovation goal can be a model for similar ventures in
explored and individual preferences came into play. There were no the future.
noticeable gender differences in preferences, but especially indi- We view this project as a proof of principle. We have shown that
vidual preferences were at stake. To a great extent individual it is possible to develop a snack for adolescents that is based on
preferences were related to and influenced by the social context. As healthy ingredients and that adolescents accept as part of their daily
the preference for a specific snack box solution developed in a school routine. We do not claim that the solution developed here
specific social context, the individual preferences were subject to would have appeal beyond the context in which and for which it
change according to social relations, location, activities, time of day, was developed, or that any specific results on preferences for
assortment of snacks, norms and values. The pre-mixed snack box various aspects of the tested COOL SNACK solution necessarily
did not fully fulfil individual and changing preferences in a social generalizes. But we believe that we have demonstrated the value of
context, which made some adolescents reject the snack box interdisciplinary cooperation when it comes to finding healthier
(Christiansen et al., 2012). snacking solutions for young people. User-driven innovation is by
In summary, the outcome of the ethnographic fieldwork showed no means a new concept in the food industry (Grunert et al., 2008),
that, in a social school context, the snack box was well received and consumer-driven product innovation is by definition inter-
with interest and excitement. The shareability of the snack box was disciplinary, at it requires both competence in analysing con-
valued, especially by the girls. The pre-mixed snack boxes lacked sumers and in developing and producing new products. However,
flexibility and could not fulfil adolescents' changing and individual in spite of massive attention to the need for collaboration across
preferences. Individuality played an important role in being an functions and disciplines (Jacobsen et al., 2014), there are few
adolescent and in their social relationships, which was mirrored in documented cases showing how different disciplines can play
the different ways in which the aspect of sharing entered the together in the successful development of new products. We believe
snacking behaviour of boys and girls. that our case documents the promise of feeding psychological, so-
ciological, sensory and technological competence into a joint proj-
5. Conclusions ect aimed at developing a new product that appeals to the target
group and is also endorsable from a public health perspective.
In the project described in this paper, we set out to develop new
healthful snacking solutions that adolescents would perceive as Acknowledgements
attractive e we believe that this aim was achieved. Based on the
comprehensive insight into adolescents' snacking behaviour ob- This project was supported by a grant from the Danish Council
tained, we derived seven key requirements for such a snacking for Strategic Research grant no. 0603-00197B. We are also indebted
solution: healthy and unhealthy features, due regard for gender- to a number of commercial partners who participated throughout
specific preferences in taste and energy density, recognizable the project through their advice and opinions and made various
taste and texture varieties, usability as supplement to a lunch box, contributions in the development and production of prototypes.
fitting temporal structure of daily organization of snacking behav-
iour, usability for socializing and sharing, and invitation to
continuous negotiation and appropriation. We believe that the
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