InFlOOD: A study about the influence of food media on food consumption patterns in Flanders
The scientific goal of InFlOOD is to understand how food media (i.e. all mass communication about food with the exception of traditional advertising campaigns and information/ health campaigns) influence food consumption in Flanders. The abundance of often contradictory and non-evidence-based media reports about nutrition are causing confusion. In this context, it is quite a challenge for the food industry and health organizations to communicate effectively about nutrition guidelines. Our goal is to learn from the growing group of highly successful food influencers how we can better communicate about food and nutrition. As a group of academics, health organizations, food producers and media, we want to produce positive, powerful evidence-based messages about nutrition. The concrete goals of InFlOOD are: 1. Starting from an in-depth historical analysis to study the content of popular food media in relation to the Flemish food consumption figures, 2. Zoom in on the role of celebrity status of popular food influencers, 3. Developing communication strategies that use the discourse of the most influential food gurus (how to communicate) applied to evidence-based information (which message) about nutrition (guidelines), and 4. Setting up an independent communication platform on food and nutrition that refers to the various expert bodies. The valorization of the project will be achieved via three routes: Route 1: Produce evidence-based output on the influence of food media on Flemish food consumption Route 2: Setting up a platform that forms the bridge between the food and media industry Route 3: Setting up an independent communication platform on food and nutrition that brings the consumer to the competent experts. This project has three different stakeholder groups, each with their own motivation to participate in this project: The food industry is presented with communication challenges such as keeping up with the new era of digital marketing (social media, food influencers), and refuting the flow of negative and often erroneous messages about nutrition that appear in the media. The food marketing and media industry are struggling to get their message to the consumer in these times of abundant communication about food. Health organizations are asking for more insight into how they should communicate dietary guidelines to consumers. In these internet-connected times, consumers are more directly informed and the health professionals who used to act as intermediaries to explain and frame messages are increasingly skipped.
- VLAIO / IWT
Charlotte De Backer
Hilde Van den Bulck
Kathleen Van Royen
From Food Media to Food Literacy: Investigating to use of food media to improve young adults' food literacy
People consume food via various media to such a degree that some even talk about "food porn". This project aims to investigate if this form of entertainment can be(come) a tool to educate young adults (18-25) from different SES backgrounds about food literacy. We start with an exploration of the food literacy barriers Flemish young adults experience. In this exploratory phase we will also monitor which food media they watch most often and find most entertaining. Second, we will study if and how existing food media cover the four general domains of food literacy (planning, selecting, preparing, consuming). We firstly want to know if food media cover these topics. Second, we aim to study how they transfer this information using a framework of methods that have been proven to be successful in planning health promotion programs. In a final stage, we merge the above knowledge by testing the impact of different food media on the potential improvement of the four general food literacy domains. Using four experiments, we will focus each time on one of the four food literacy domains in detail and how certain food media may positively influence their users. Participants will be asked to actively use a particular form of food media and keep a record of their experience using social media (experimental group) or to not use any food media (control group) for a period of ten weeks. Prior and after each trial measures will be taken to asses any differences in food literacy.
Charlotte De Backer
- Heidi Vandenbosch
- Lauranna Teunissen
Meat the challenge
The meat industry is confronted with challenges in the areas of health, food safety and the environment. Consumers increasingly distrust the meat industry. A number of crises within the sector, negative attention in the press, increasingly louder voices to choose vegetarian alternatives and repeated messages that "eating meat" is unhealthy have caused concern and confusion among consumers. The general aim of this project is to analyze and optimize the communication skills of small and large-scale meat industries. How can they optimally communicate correct information about their product? And can we restore consumer confidence where necessary?
- VLAIO / IWT
- Charlotte De Backer
Meat, Men & Masculinities: How the (non) consumption of meat relates to personal, interpersonal, and cultural communication, focusing on connections between "meat", "men" and "masculinity"
Food is about nutrition and health as much as it is about communication. The food choices we make relate to our identity, our interactions, and our culture. While research on food and health is abundant, research into food as a process of communication remains scarce. Charlotte De Backer fills this niche with her research (https://www.uantwerpen.be/en/projects/food-media-society/). At current De Backer and colleagues mainly look at how to effectively communicate about food (cSBO InFlOOD, FWO project, VLAIO- Meat The Challenge). The focus of the running projects is on how communication influences food consumption behavior. The goal of this Meat, Men & Masculinities proposal is to also study how food choices influence communication. The starting point of this proposal is the widespread cultural belief that "real men eat meat", and the growing resistance towards this idea. Together with Gaëlle Ouvrein, De Backer is currently conducting pilot studies that show that meat eaters and vegetarians/vegans stereotype each other and react to bashing comments in ways that ache towards polarization, especially among male populations. Ouvrein, an international expert in (celebrity) bashing behavior is therefore co-supervisor of this proposal. Departing from the socio-ecological model, this Meat, Men & Masculinities project will study how choices to eat or not to eat meat interact with communication processes at the level of (1) the individual, (2) interpersonal interactions and (3) culture. First, at the level of the individual, it is well known that, compared to women, men have stronger pro-meat attitudes that manifest at both explicit rational- and implicit, unconscious levels. We have recently shown, however, that not all men are alike, and that differences in masculine identities predict differences in men's explicit attitudes towards meat consumption. The question that will be addressed in this proposal is if similar differences in masculinities can also predict differences in attitudes and motives at unconscious, implicit levels. Implicit attitudes and motives are less prone to cultural change, but if these can be changed, they offer a more powerful and sustainable end goal for interventions. Second, at the level of culture, mass media messages about food increase in number every day. Research has shown that mass media reinforce beliefs like "real men eat meat", but these studies are outdated and scant attention has been paid to online media messages about Meat, Men & Masculinities. We thus aim to study if and how current print- and online media frame factual information about Meat, Men & Masculinities. To narrow down online media, we will focus on Instagram and Twitter, known for their abundant, and often outspoken messages about food. Third, focusing on the interpersonal level, it is known that meat is a moralizing topic, and there are assumptions that meat polarizes people into those who do and do not eat meat. We plan to empirically investigate if this is the case, and how this in the end also relates to communication at the individual and cultural level. For all this, we plan to adopt a holistic multimethod approach. Quantitative and qualitative content analyses will be used to study media messages about Meat, Men & Masculinities. Self-report (online) surveys will be combined with psychophysiological measures to investigate how men self-identify in relation to meat, react to (social) media messages about meat, and interact with meat eaters and vegetarians/vegans. In the end the outcomes of this project will lead to a profound understanding of how a seemingly simple choice to "eat or not to eat meat" operates as an important message at the level of personal, interpersonal and cultural communication. This knowledge will have the potential to impact communication strategies of health professionals and marketeers that urgently look for solutions to convince avid (most often male) meat eaters to reduce their meat intake.
Meat, Men & Masculinities: How social media and interpersonal communication processes shape the connections between masculine identities and meat consumption
Although an over-consumption of meat relates to health- and sustainability problems, many people, men in particular, eat more meat than recommended. An underlying cause of men's over-consumption of meat may be the widespread belief that "real men eat meat". This belief fits hegemonic, patriarchal views on masculinity, but does not fit newer, more inclusive forms of masculinity. Newer forms of masculinity are gaining momentum, and at the same time also meatless diets seem to be on the rise. The general scope of this project is to study potential connections between (not) eating meat and beliefs about masculinity. In concrete terms, we will study: (1) how social media portray meat, men and masculinities; (2) investigate if and how men's decision to (not) eat meat relates to interpersonal processes of othering and polarization; and (3) study how meat, men and masculinities intersect on the cultural, interpersonal, and individual level of food choice behavior. Quantitative and qualitative content analyses will be used to study (1) Instagram and Twitter content about meat and masculinities. Experiments with self-report and psycho-physiological measures will be used to study: (2) interpersonal processes of distancing, othering and tension-relief, and (3) the effect of social media content and interpersonal interactions on men's choice to eat or not to eat meat. The outcomes may offer timely and necessary solutions to assist avid male meat eaters to reduce their meat intake.