Making Vegetables Desirable: Improving the Eating Habits of Wales’ Younger Generation
Existing literature exposes poor eating habits and low vegetable consumption as rife amongst adolescents. Increased autonomy in relation to decision-making around food often follows the onset of secondary school education. Studies have shown that adolescents are vulnerable to peer pressure because they want to fit in with their peers. The aim of this research was to develop a detailed insight into young adolescents’ (aged 11- to 13-years-old) behaviour concerning vegetables through exploratory research. The findings will inform the vegetable marketing of the company partner, Puffin Produce (who currently package Welsh fresh produce for supermarkets across Wales). A triangulated research methodology incorporated quantitative and qualitative data collection predominantly from schools in South Wales.
Phase One involved collecting data from school canteen purchases (n=3 secondary schools), qualitative school catering manager interviews (n=6), catering staff focus groups (n=14) and parent focus groups (n=5). Phase Two included school canteen observations (n=3 secondary schools) and adolescent focus groups (n=42). A design period preceded the participatory design research with adolescents (n=41) and final parent focus groups (n=16) (Phase Three). Abductive thematic analysis resulted in numerous themes, the three most pertinent being convenience, taste preferences and parenting. This study fills three identified ‘gaps’ in the literature: the novel use of catering staff participants, the geographical research area of South Wales and the incorporation of adolescents in the participatory design research. The original contributions to knowledge includes an understanding into the factors influencing Welsh adolescents’ (aged 11- to 13-years-old) attitudes towards vegetables in addition to their food consumption routines and behaviours. Moreover, these insights are of commercial interest and could potentially inform the marketing communications of food companies seeking to target this market and improve healthful eating. The NPD process resulted in a vegetable-based snacking concept that is innovative yet feasible, suitable for Puffin Produce to develop further.