The need for consumer involvement in innovation processes has been recognised for four decades. Consumer involvement as a part of open innovation is an important strategy in the food sector, specifically for enhancing consumer acceptance and promoting successful market introduction. The purpose of this paper is to systematically analyse the concept of consumers’ role and the level of consumer integration and interaction in recent food innovation processes.
In 2016, a three-step literature search was performed to identify the state-of-the-art scientific literature on consumer-involvement approaches and methods in the food sector. These methods and approaches were qualitatively analysed based on categories in accordance with the qualitative content analysis method.
A key finding is that most implemented consumer-involvement approaches and methods fall under von Hippel’s manufacturer-active paradigm rather than the customer-active paradigm (CAP). However, there are practical reasons for the low diffusion of CAP. The presumed reasons include needed change of the perception of roles and of organisational structures, as well as a lack of trust among actors.
There remains a need to promote an active role for consumers, especially amid changing consumer demand and increasingly conscious consumer behaviour concerning food production and processing conditions.
This paper contributes to the theoretical and practical discussion about innovation management by reflecting on the innovation paradigm underlying an approach or method. The paper may also have practical implications for the choice and implementation of business models that consider consumers’ role.
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