Research project
36 | monthsFRA_POP

Nudging fragile population groups towards sustainable food choices

Related toSpoke 01

Principal investigators
Riccardo Vecchio

Other partecipantsDaniela Caso, Davide Menozzi, Cristina Mora
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Task involved

Task 1.3.2.

Subsidising quality food consumption (e.g., geographical indication, organic): analysis of alternative forms of public intervention to support consumers’ healthy and sustainable choices, with specific focus on fragile population groups (e.g., elderly, low income).

Project deliverables


Report on alternative forms of public intervention to support consumers healthy and sustainable choices, with specific focus on fragile population groups (e.g., elderly, children, chronic disease, low income, etc.) (M36)

Interaction with other spokes

State of the art

Several interventions aimed at changing individuals’ eating habits have been applied either through hard approaches focused on government interventions (as taxes and subsidies) or softer approaches to shift beliefs and attitudes through information and education campaigns (Clarke, 2004). These interventions, in general, assume that human choices are rational, perfectly informed and unencumbered by external influences (Thorgeirsson & Kawachi, 2013). In other words, people seek information about the quality and cost of feasible options and systematically use this information to maximize their utility, i.e., making the choice in their best interest. However, to date, such interventions alone have not appeared to solve food consumption problems, as unhealthy diets and obesity are a growing problem (WHO, 2021). As a result, many stakeholders in recent years have started to embrace alternative approaches that alter choice environments to improve selections, such as nudging (Sustein, 2016).

Operation plan

Nudging mainly refers to modifications of choice environments in real-life or in laboratory settings. The overall aim of this research is to determine the effectiveness of nutritional/sustainable nudges (as tailored persuasive messages sent through instant messages applications) on different targets of fragile individuals of the Italian population. The aim will be achieved through the following steps: 

  1. Analyzing the existing literature to determine the research gap and to provide sufficient background for designing the experiment.
  2. Developing an experimental design to test the effect of nutritional/sustainable nudge on food choices.
  3. Data Collection.
  4. Analyzing the results.
  5. Policy and practical recommendations.

Experiments will involve diverse target groups of fragile consumers (regarding age, social status, health status, as well as habits, values, and other psychographic, social, and cultural aspects) and will be performed via multiple venues.

Expected results

Results of the studies will verify the effectiveness of diverse nudging interventions in fostering sustainable food choices of specific subgroups of fragile consumers (as elderly, low socio-economic status, children). Additionally, the relations between selected interventions and individual characteristics (as socio-demographics, personal values, health consciousness and sustainability awareness) and environmental elements (as purchasing and consumption contexts and time constraints) will be identified. Findings will shed light on the most successful bundles of interventions-fragile subgroup of individuals and provide a detailed overview of the core barriers and drivers hampering/facilitating the diverse interventions for selected target groups. Moreover, given the customizability of interventions, practical insights will be presented to increase individual-specific acceptance and effectiveness.