Science communication in a changing environment

25 November 2015

Celebrating 20 years of the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), a stakeholder conference was held in June 2015. Professionals, including academics, industry, consumer representatives, media and policy makers from across Europe were brought together to discuss food trends and the future of food and nutrition. Particular focus was paid to how best to communicate about the future of food to the public. This Food Today issue summarises the presentations of Dr Laura Fernández, Prof. Mike Gibney, John Keogh, and Prof. Klaus Grunert.

Dr Laura Fernández

Looking back

Since 1995, EUFIC has communicated science-based information on nutrition and health and food safety and quality to the European public, to help them make informed choices towards a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet and lifestyle.

EUFIC has always looked for better ways of communicating science-based information in order to promote people’s knowledge and understanding of food and nutrition. This has led the organisation to evolve and adapt to the changes in digital media and the rise of social media platforms, as a valuable source of information easily accessed by consumers.

For the past 20 years, under the direction of two successive Director Generals, Anna Jung (1995-2005) and Dr Josephine Wills (2006-2014), and the help of numerous staff, EUFIC’s main website has reached 10.9 million annual visitor sessions by the end of 2014, a new all-time record. The number of website subscribers rose to more than 47,000. EUFIC has drawn more than 12,000 followers into its social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube. EUFIC has established well-regarded publications, including Food Today - a popular topical newsletter, launched CoolFoodPlanet - a fun and interactive educational website for children, and produced attractive multimedia content, like podcasts and webinars, which use a variety of written, audio and visual techniques.

In addition, EUFIC has maintained a connection with the research community through participating at European and international conferences, performing scientific consumer research, publishing scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, and participating in 20 EU-funded projects to date.

EUFIC is now looking to the future to determine where health and nutrition information is headed.

Looking ahead

According to recent reports, we can expect a number of health and dietary trends to influence EUFIC’s communication. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) explored different scenarios of future foods and diets.1 The scenarios showed that healthier eating behaviour is closely linked to societal values, supported by effective policies and technologies. The study implies that future diets will be tailored to individual needs, more sustainable, and supported by stronger scientific evidence and integrated policies.

The future food world will in part depend on the values and priorities of the consumer. People’s health-conscious and socially responsible mindset will influence future EUFIC publications, paving the way for the next 20 years. Furthermore, EUFIC’s communication will inevitably continue to evolve along with technological advances.

References

  1. Joint Research Centre (2014). JRC FORESIGHT STUDY. Joint Research Centre Tomorrow’s Healthy Society Research Priorities for Foods and Diets. Final Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.