PhD position. Consumers and optimal level of (sustainable) food packaging

Packaging plays an important but somewhat ambivalent role in relation to food. On the one hand, packaging contributes to environmental impact as it often is discarded. On the other hand, packaging extends shelf life of ...

9 dagen geleden


Bornsesteeg, Wageningen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur


Packaging plays an important but somewhat ambivalent role in relation to food. On the one hand, packaging contributes to environmental impact as it often is discarded. On the other hand, packaging extends shelf life of food thereby reducing food waste and contributing to food safety. A key challenge for packaging development lies in understanding the "optimal level of packaging" and how this depends on the food product category involved (e.g. its perishability), production features to be retained (e.g. organics), specific safety concerns (e.g. when involving sensitive target groups such as with baby food), and the time between the final processing step and consumption (e.g. instant consumption vs. delayed consumption).

New technologies in (food) packaging science may provide new opportunities to change this balance between the environmental costs from packaging waste versus environmental gains from packaging's contribution to food waste reduction.

Consumer adoption and correct use of the new packaging is essential to achieve these opportunities. Therefore, the positioning and communication of such new technologies needs to be optimally aligned with consumer perception and understanding of product-packaging combinations, which may not necessarily align with the "objective" environmental impact assessments from technical life cycle assessments.

The key objective of this 4 year PhD project is to identify new models for the optimal level of packaging through the identification of optimal product-package-market (consumer segments) combinations that collectively can help move further the circular economy in its Triple-P balance between environmental impact, economic feasibility and social satisfaction.


We are looking for a PhD candidate, who will investigate how combinations of packaging, products and the behavior of consumer (segments) and their interactions determine the "optimal" level of packaging in terms of Triple-P balance for the product-packaging combination.

In this project the candidate will

  • Create a theoretical framework on how the environmental impact of product-packaging combinations depends on (a) packaging-specifics, (b) the product category specifics, and (c) the consumers' behaviors as well as their complex interactions. This trade-off will be approached from the concept of "decoupling point", the distance between the final processing step in production and the actual consumption moment.
  • Conduct a pan-European study in which consumer perception and evaluation of different packaging-product combinations are explored to identify European-level segments on preferred product-packaging combinations.
  • Conduct studies to unravel the trade-off between consumer food waste prevention and environmental impact of packaging material is optimized and how optimal solutions for relevant consumer segments can be communicated to these target groups
  • Conduct an (experimental) study in which the impact of food preparation habits (either from scratch or based on preprocessed half-products) is offset against the optimal level of packaging.
  • Run a validation study where insights from the previous studies are combined with the outcomes of newly developed packaging materials are implemented and the prediction of the most optimal consumer response to the subsequent product-packaging combinations are tested .
Your work will consist of a literature study, international surveys and consumer behavior experiments. The approach to the data collection is quantitative and requires skills with, or willingness to learn to interpret and conduct complex statistical procedure (such a latent class analysis).

The Wageningen UR Marketing and Consumer Behaviour Group is part of a EU funded consortium that investigates the potential of innovative packaging towards more sustainable food production chains. The consortium consists of university and industrial partners of a range of countries and aims to develop close to market applications of new food packaging. Hence the project gives the candidate the opportunity to create a European academic and industrial network.

Besides writing a PhD dissertation, you will present your work on conferences and through scientific publications.

The candidate has:
  • A university degree (MSc) in a consumer behavior relevant field (e.g. consumer science, marketing, social psychology, behavioral economics)
  • Affinity and demonstrable experience with quantitative research methods
  • Affinity with food consumer research and the role of (packaging) sustainability therein.
  • Openness and willingness to collaborate with partners from other European countries and scientific disciplines,
  • Clear scientific ambition in the conduct and publication of research work
  • Good control of English (both verbally and written)
  • A group-social, critical and positive learning attitude towards achieving excellence


We offer a a full-time PhD position for a period of 18 months, extended by another 30 months after positive evaluation. Gross yearly salary will increase from € 31010 in the first year up to € 39635 in the last year based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week). You will be working in a pleasant and inspiring environment in the context of an innovative research consortium.

The supervision of this project will be done by Dr. Arnout Fischer and Prof Hans van Trijp. For more information about the post, please contact Dr Fischer (
Please do not use this e-mail address to apply. Only applications sent to our website can be taken into consideration.

Please apply by uploading your CV and letter of motivatiom before September 25th.

Additional information

For more information you can contact:
Dr Arnout (ARH) Fischer ( or Prof dr Hans (HCM) van Trijp ( .


The Marketing and Consumer Behaviour Group is part of Wageningen University in the Social Sciences Group. The Marketing and Consumer Behaviour group is at the forefront of agricultural marketing groups of the world. Our mission is to increase the sustainability of the food production chain through our knowledge and understanding of and contribution to marketing and consumer behavior research.

Wageningen University and Research centre
Delivering a substantial contribution to the quality of life. That's our focus - each and every day. Within our domain, healthy food and living environment, we search for answers to issues affecting society - such as sustainable food production, climate change and alternative energy. Of course, we don't do this alone. Every day, 6,500 people work on 'the quality of life', turning ideas into reality, on a global scale.


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