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Food Consumer Science in the Balkans: Frameworks, Protocols and Networks for a better knowledge of food behaviours

Final Report Summary - FOCUS-BALKANS (Food Consumer Science in the Balkans: Frameworks, Protocols and Networks for a better knowledge of food behaviours)

Executive Summary:
The importance of consumer food science lies in the fact that eating is a vital activity and that the relationship between food and health, food security, and food quality are major political concerns. In any country organized as a free market economy, consumers should be the main driver of the food industry. But in some cases, obstacles can hinder the information processes between producers and consumers, hampering the market functioning. In the Western Balkans, giving the consumers a place in the market functioning is of particular importance. After the political turn in the mid-90ies, the socio-economical changes have been and still are fast and radical. This is a period where the consumers establish their rights vis-à-vis the industry and the retailers. In this particular context, research plays a very important role. The spirit of the project FOCUS-BALKANS encompassing six Western Balkan countries (WBC) [Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia] was to interlink research, training and networking activities regarding food consumer science, so as to boost research in a sustainable way: all six countries conducted individual research studies on niche markets and a quantitative consumer survey, participated in and/or organized trainings (6), networking meetings (32) and open seminars (2). Nowadays, i.e. after the end of the project, the participant researchers‘ network continues to develop activities in that field.
The general objective of FOCUS-BALKANS was to improve competencies and understanding in the field of food consumer science in the Western Balkan countries (WBC), and especially to:
• Have a better knowledge and understanding of WBC food consumers, with a focus on products with positive nutritional properties (food with ‘health claim‘ and fruits) and sustainability claims (organic and traditional food).
• Develop competences and understanding of public organizations, private enterprises, and NGOs regarding food consumer science in the WBC (educational trainings).
• Develop a network of universities, institutes, high schools, consumer organizations, NGOs, and private enterprises active in the field of consumer science related to food (networking meetings and open seminars).
The most important findings were that in general, more promotion for food in relation to health promotion (improvement of the diet) must be undertaken by the governments and that supply chains (from producers over processors to small retailers) must be fostered and better structured. Food voluntary standards must be better communicated to the consumers and more clearly tagged and positioned. The food industry, the policy-makers and the researchers desire to be active in the scientific and professional networks in order to continue conducting actively such research.
The project activities resulted in an important participation of WBC scientists in projects related to food consumer science. More than hundred scientists of the region were directly involved in research, training, networking or dissemination activities. Furthermore, they gained competencies in presenting scientific papers at conferences and in publishing them in scientific journals in order to make food consumer science in the WBC broadly known among the scientific community.
Key impacts of this three-year project are:
• A scientific book (forthcoming) and publications (see list on
• The Western Balkan Network on food consumer science has been constituted and is active.
• Awareness has been raised among scientists and stakeholders in policy and industry: the findings and the new methodological knowledge has been disseminated. Furthermore, knowledge gaps and needs for action have been identified and can be tackled by governments, NGOs and scientists.
• Motivation was ignited among participants and will be carried on and used for concrete projects. The WBC partners have elaborated new methods, which fit the specific WBC context. They are now able to apply them to further scientific studies and concrete programs. The knowledge is spread out through several bachelor and master programs.
Project Context and Objectives:
In the Western Balkan Countries (WBC), the lack of data and models of food consumption and food trends hinders the understanding of important changes that are currently occurring in food markets. Indeed, these countries are recovering from the crisis of the 1990‘s and are seeking to best manage the transition from a planned economy to more market based national economies. In addition, all entities of the former Yugoslavia have made attempts to approach European integration in different ways [currently, only Slovenia and recently Croatia acceded to the status of being full EU-member state, Serbia became recently a candidate country]. The obvious consequence of the transition from state-driven to market-oriented economies is that the new driver on local markets is the consumer instead of the state. Additionally, the strong long-lasting linkages between the producing sector and the state disappeared with the collapse of the old socio economic apparatus. As a result, the control and information functions of the state have become much weaker. Directly linked to consumer issues and food safety, this weakness has also resulted in an increased distrust of the population in state agencies as far as the control and dissemination of information is concerned. The needs for an improvement of market participation is obvious: The Western Balkan food industry (farmers, processors, producers and retailers) needs to better know the consumer demand and the consumption trends, and this presupposes to elaborate the necessary information and to render it accessible for the food supply chain actors. It was a primary objective of FOCUS BALKANS to provide research results and to establish an information network able to fill this gap.
The needs to develop food consumer science are severe because of several reasons.
• First, the shift in market requests is fast: the changing nature of domestic markets leads to an increasing presence of the major international and domestic supermarkets: while the market is open and more accessible to private investments, the supermarkets are gaining market shares. This tendency plays an important role for the requirements at the farm and local food processing level. In particular, they must comply with increasingly demanding global requirements, for example the sanitary regulations.
• Second, the consumers‘ preferences vary and diverge substantially according to evolving living standards. These differences are the result of the evolution of the purchasing power, but this differs depending on the region and the social belonging of the consumer. This new regional and social frameworks should be integrated in the marketing strategies of the producers. New opportunities appear: for example, new products (with ‘health claims‘), organic products, and traditional food linked to origin are more demanded on the export and domestic markets. Market and consumer research are able to support the producers in their commercial efforts to cope with this new commercial environment.
• Third, the information on food availability and dietary patterns in the WBC is essential for the development of food policies designed at ensuring sufficient food supply and improved human health and well-being. While health is closely linked to incomes, regional anomalies are apparent.

In the WBC, the important role of consumers has evolved rapidly during the last decades. This period coincides with the crisis of the 1990ies embodied by wars, social tensions and sanctions for many of the WBC. Regarding FOCUS BALKANS, the need to offer new perspectives to the research community was an additional motive to start the project. In fact, these terrible events isolated WBC researchers from the international scientific community and prevented them from upgrading their knowledge and research approaches. This project focuses on the important challenge of filling knowledge gaps and rebuilding networks. The geographical scope of the project encompassed the Western Balkan Countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.

The main principles underpinning the work-plan were the following:
• An up-to-date literature review was required in order to obtain a complete overview of the existing knowledge about consumer science related to food in the six studied countries.
• This review of the knowledge system led to the identification of relevant major players, who were later involved in the network and who were mobilized as a resource or target audience in the training and networking activities. This was achieved through both a quantitative identification (and compilation in an on-line data basis) and a qualitative and comparative analysis about the functioning of the knowledge system related to food consumer science.
• Capacity building was of major importance, so FOCUS-BALKANS relied on a learning-by-doing approach for research: local universities, students, and SMEs, coached by experts and trainers, conducted the primary research.
• The network and dissemination was created to be self-sustaining: FOCUS-BALKANS foresaw the continuation of the network after the EU-program with leadership resting with local universities.
The consortium of the FOCUS-BALKANS project chose the four markets to be studied (fruits, ‘health claim‘, organic and traditional food). The reasons of these choices were the following. The fruits are an essential part of a well-balanced diet: the fruit research included a comprehensive study of nutritional balances and fruits consumption‘s habits. Products with nutritional and health claims were chosen because an understanding of the demand for such goods revealed important information regarding the health preoccupations of the population. The insights gained through this study were relevant for communicating nutritional information and giving advice to governments and NGOs. The study on organic products was carried out because organic goods are a further indicator of health and environmental concerns of the consumers. The market for traditional regional products was selected as culture plays a vital role in food habits.

The general objective of the FOCUS-BALKANS project was to improve competencies and understanding in the field of food consumer science in the Balkan countries, and especially to:
• Have a better knowledge and understanding of WBC food consumers, with a focus on products with positive nutritional properties (food with ‘health claim‘ and fruits) and sustainability claims (organic and traditional food).
• Develop competences and understanding of public organizations, private enterprises, and NGOs regarding food consumer science in the WBC (educational trainings).
• Develop a network of universities, institutes, high schools, consumer organizations, NGOs, and private enterprises active in the field of consumer science related to food (networking meetings and open seminars).

The substantial part of the project developed an analysis of the drivers and determinants of food consumption behaviors in the WBC on the basis of collaboration between the EU, South East European universities and SMEs. Consumer organizations, which acted as the main players for the diffusion of the results, hereby were involved. The entire research was part of the knowledge acquisition process: the market and consumer studies (inquiries, data collection, processing and synthesis) were conducted mainly by actors in the WBC. They were supported by senior experts of Western Europe within the consortium. In terms of skills and knowledge related to food consumer science in the WBC, the WBC project beneficiaries have become familiar with the different variables influencing food perception and made data on consumer behavior available for specific food groups. This resulted in the publication of the main project findings in reports, leaflets, brochures, articles and lists of publications.

The training part of the program aimed at providing the participants with:
• A theoretical basis for understanding food consumer science;
• Understanding of cutting edge methods in the field of food consumer science;
• Up-to-date market data, resulted from a learning-by-doing approach, which provided participants with a pool of relevant data about market structure and opportunities as well as consumer trends and habits in three different niche markets (organic food, traditional regional food, and dietetic food) and in one of the major commodity markets related to human health (fruits).
The trainings resulted in effective relationships and exchanges between the WBC beneficiaries. Methods and methodology understanding and mastering, specification of the scope of each research activity, use of the different methodologies and a good overview of all aspects of the realization of a consumer survey were tackled as well.

The networking part of the program was conceived as a way of facilitating the exchange of knowledge between consumer organizations and farmers, producers, processors and retailers. It resulted in the development of a tight network between the public institutions and private enterprises that are stakeholders in the use and generation of food consumer research (e.g. farmers, producers, processors and consumer organizations).
This network provided a framework for both (a) developing appropriate supply chain policies and strategies based on an understanding of consumer preferences and market opportunities and (b) improving the efficiency of nutrition and health policies. The network resulted in the mobilization and information of the main stakeholders active in fields related to food consumer science all over the WBC.
The research part of the program led to enhanced local co-operation and technical competence.
Project Results:
Results in Science and Technology have been achieved during the whole three-year period of the project. The spirit of this project encompassing six Western Balkan countries [Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia] was to interlink research, trainings and networking activities so as to make use of the strong synergies. Therefore, all six WBC conducted individual research on niche markets, organized trainings and networking activities and participated in the two open seminars. The foregrounds of this project are described in the following paragraphs structured according to the specific objectives of research (knowledge upgrade), training and networking.
The general objective of the Focus Balkans project was to research on and improve the scientific competencies and understanding related to consumer food science in the WBC.

Section I) Knowledge upgrade
The need for research in the domains of consumer behavior and food science is huge in the WBC. At the beginning of the research, the FOCUS BALKANS researchers have conducted - and made publically accessible on-line - a complete review of the existing literature and market accessible data in the field of food consumer science in the WBC.
The project further has provided new in-depth and up-to-date knowledge about the needs, expectations, market trends, and the consumer behavior in the Balkan countries with references to the situation in other parts of Europe. The main focus during the research activities lay on products with positive nutritional properties (fruits and health food) and on sustainability (organic and traditional food). Furthermore, quantitative surveys were carried out.
The research activities led to enhanced local co-operation and technical competence. This was achieved through a learning-by-doing process: the Balkan researchers, who were coached by senior western European researchers from the consortium, conducted themselves the market and consumer research.
One of the conclusions of the research part related to “Knowledge system in Food Consumer Science in the Balkans” was, however, that the information and knowledge status are not developed enough yet. There are separate developments of knowledge going on. The food and consumption research is still interpreted from the point of view of consumer‘s impact on profit, thus not highlighting social, environmental and economic linkages. Furthermore, the main actors of the food system (farmers, processors, producers, and retailers) must comply with increasingly demanding global requirements, which necessitate better access to relevant global knowledge and up-to-date information. The public decision system is accordingly weak because governmental bodies do not cooperate strong enough.

During the whole three-year period of the project, the FOCUS BALKANS findings were spread among WBC partners but also in the European Union. Additionally, the partners disseminated their newly gained knowledge in their own local networks. Finally, this has led to an increased awareness of consumer behavior related to food and food production issues in the WBC.

Substance of the results
Regarding the substance of the results, the major conclusions and needs for further research have been published und disseminated during the whole project period. As a first specific objective concerned the better understanding of food consumption in the WBCs, a range of publications has been written addressing the scientific community, among them a scientific book edited by Springer about “Food Consumer Science - Theories, Methods and Application to the Western Balkans” (forthcoming in 2012). Publications for a wider public include four newsletters, three leaflets, posters and presentations in conferences and at seminars, a book about “Food Consumer Science”, and numerous scientific articles. The two open seminars and one extended networking meeting (in Montenegro in 2012) brought together a wide spectrum of stakeholders (including actors of the food supply chains and policy makers), there were between 60 and 150 participants each. The final results and conclusions have been published in the form of a booklet (policy brief).
For all four selected markets, separate research activities and a quantitative survey were carried out in the course of the FOCUS-BALKANS project. The main results are presented in more detail in the following paragraphs.
a) Quantitative survey
The quantitative survey provided substantial empirical evidences regarding the importance of different factors underlying the food choices in WBC. A Food Choice Questionnaire (FCQ), an instrument that measures the reported importance of nine factors underlying food choices, was administered to a representative sample of 3‘085 adult respondents in the six WBC (about 500 respondents in each country). This research contributed to the literature on three levels: providing a systematic cross-national comparison of food choice motivations in the WBCs, assessing the generalizability of the FCQ factorial structure to a markedly different environment from the original UK sample (Steptoe, A., Pollard, T., & Wardle, J. (1995). Development of a measure of the motives underlying the selection of food. The food choice questionnaire. Appetite, 25, pp. 267–284) and other Western European countries (which account for the majority of applications of the FCQ), and assessing the usefulness of the FCQ in identifying subpopulations with a similar food choice behavior.
The most important factors reported as motive guiding the food choices in the Balkan are ‘sensory appeal‘, ‘purchase convenience‘, and ‘health and natural content‘; the least important are ‘ethical concern‘ and ‘familiarity‘. The ranking of food choice motives across the six countries was strikingly similar. Factor analysis revealed eight factors compared to nine in the original FCQ model: ‘health and natural content‘ scales loaded on to one factor as did ‘familiarity‘ and ‘ethical concern‘; the ‘convenience‘ scale items generated two factors, one related to ‘purchase convenience‘ and the other to ‘preparation convenience‘. Slovenian respondents rated ‘purchase convenience‘ as relatively more important compared to the other countries studied, probably reflecting the higher incomes in Slovenia. In all countries, except Slovenia, ‘sensory appeal‘ is rated as the most important factor on average. ‘Purchase convenience‘, ‘price‘ and ‘health and natural content‘ are consistently rated as very important across the country samples. In all countries, ‘familiarity and ethical concern‘ is rated the least important. Taken together, these results indicate a high degree of consistency in the WBCs regarding factors that influence food choice.
Groups of consumers with similar motivational profiles were identified using cluster analysis. Each cluster had a distinct food purchasing behavior and socio-economic characteristics. At risk groups were defined for which appropriate public health communication messages can be drawn. The clusters were: ‘food enthusiasts‘, ‘unconcerned food consumers‘, ‘purchase convenient consumers‘, ‘health oriented consumers‘, ‘price oriented and distressed consumers‘. Attitudes, social norms, intentions for consumption, and frequency of consumption for the four products (health claim, fruit, organic and traditional food) have been investigated.
The main results have been published in Miloševi? J., Žeželj I., Gorton M., Barjolle D., 2012, Understanding the Motives for Food Choice in Western Balkan Countries, Appetite, 58 (2012) pp. 205-214.
b) Fruits
The assessment of the fruit sector in the WBC showed that family orchards and homemade processed fruits are important in these regions. The family orchards are typical for the Western Balkan. Two different types can be distinguished: 1) fruits for private use and 2) fruits grown for the market. The cultivated areas and average yields differ among the countries studied.
The research was carried out through expert interviews followed by consumer interviews. This has allowed making a Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Trends (SWOT) analysis for the region. The main strengths of the fruit chain in the WBC are appropriate climate conditions, high quality of raw material, an optimal price/quality ratio, trust among consumers, the traditional way of growing, and acceptable prices. Main weaknesses are the underdeveloped technology level, inadequate access to commercial credits, poor monitoring of product safety, lack of uniformity of the products, and small advertising budgets. Opportunities are perceived in growing exports, increased primary production, governmental and EU support for the production and rural development, and in the creation of brands that add value to products (e.g. organic). The high concentration level of retailers, well-organized producers from EU countries, and a lack of organization in the production chain are considered to be threats. Recommendations for the government therefore are to estimate the production data, to update the fruit assortment and technologies, to adapt and build capacities, to participate in agricultural fairs and other important international events, to support revolutionary and experimental research, to offer education and trainings for farmers, and to introduce international standards for fruit quality both in the primary and in the fruit processing sectors. Furthermore, public health policies often are inexistent or inefficient. Fruit consumption therefore should be promoted more strongly on a national and regional level.
The consumer quantitative survey about fruit consumption in the WBC revealed three clusters that raise concern from the perspective of public health. The first consists of ‘unconcerned consumers‘ whose knowledge related to food and whose fruit consumption is below average. In this case, there is a need to promote better balanced diets. The second cluster consists of ‘price oriented and distressed consumers‘ whose fruit consumption is low because they belong to the group of ‘low income‘ consumers. They are consuming relatively unhealthy food due to comfort reasons. This is in general a development in the WBC that gives reason to worry. Public health campaigns addressing this cluster therefore should stress both the financial and health related benefits from reducing the intake of fatty food and from increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables. The third cluster is about higher income people who have the highest incidence of obesity because of purchase convenience. The promotion of light ‘ready-to-eat‘ meals would be appropriate here. The exploration of consumer perception and consumption of fruits in the WBC showed that the consumption of fresh fruits is rather high and that a good part of the consumed fruits is home grown. Furthermore, fruits are mainly consumed at home. Among the most important motivation factors to consume fruits are taste and health aspects. The outer appearance is less relevant for WBC consumers than for EU consumers. As a new approach, it was recommended to develop a habit of eating fruits when eating out and to connect fruits with socializing activities in Balkan countries.
Results are on the way to be published in
c) Products with nutritional or health claims
The research activities carried out in the field of products with nutritional and health claims investigated, among others, the motivation and behavior of consumers related to these products. Perceived benefits of functional food were to consume something innovative and trendy and to be able to rely on scientific medical research results. Of course, health benefits were also perceived. Barriers to the purchase and consumption of such products are lacking information about the health benefits and a high level of distrust. Furthermore, consumers perceive functional food to target only small specific groups. Therefore, effective health claims should be understandable for the consumers and convincing, i.e. confirmed by official authorities or established institutions. In Macedonia, it was striking that almost all of the products investigated contained either nutritional or health claims. In Montenegro, the supply and demand of products with nutritional and health claims is increasing. The main barriers for the consumption were high prices and unpopular taste. It was found that younger consumers, especially women, pay more attention to labels and their meanings. Also in Serbia, price and taste are the most important factors motivating consumers to buy functional food. At the moment, this market segment is still rather producer than consumer driven.
The quantitative consumer survey showed that the focus of consuming products with nutritional or health aspects lies generally on the wellbeing and is linked to common health benefits. Functional food was also assessed as tasty and pleasant, suggesting that people do not only perceive health benefits but also expect the products to be appealing to the senses. Therefore, health claims should not only address the specific health need, but the overall product image should also communicate its hedonic value.
The consumers surveyed reported to rely on nutritional information more then on their own previous knowledge. It is therefore important that a certain informational base is provided to form positive attitudes towards products with health claims. As functional food can be considered a novel product (it has been introduced to most Western Balkan markets relatively recently – with the exception of Slovenia) the process of introducing new health claims should be planned carefully. The introduction should start with making consumers familiar with the health enhancing effect, stressing the benefits from its usage and addressing the perceived threats. This is particularly important because there is evidence that once attitudes are formed, further information tend only to polarize them (making positive more positive, but also negative more negative).
A lack of trust in food labels, however, influences the consumer choices more than their knowledge. Additionally, it plays a role whether consumers are used to purchase and consume such products or not. The study therefore suggests that consumers should be encouraged to invest their time in reading labels and their confidence in information gathered this way should be fostered. Furthermore, it should be avoided targeting a specific population segment, announcing overly scientific claims and unrealistic promises. Furthermore, not more than one claim per product should be advertised.
The results are published in Žeželj I., Miloševi? J., Stojanovi? Z., Ognjanov G., forthcoming in 2012, Attitude towards food with health claims, Motivational and informational basis of attitude toward food with health claims, Appetite (accepted).

d) Organic products
As far as organic products are concerned, several studies have been carried out and showed in general that national development strategies for organic farming and motivated producers are very important for the development of the sector. Teaching and training for organic farming therefore is indispensable and clear labeling of organic products could enhance the market development. The quality management and traceability are prerequisites for better structured supply chains. Marketing in general should be improved. For example, eco-tourism could play an important role in the development of the value chain of organic products. Consumers primarily buy organic food because of health concerns. Currently, the market for organic products in the WBC has a great potential to increase because committed market actors, farmers‘ and consumer associations, and policy makers act in favor of the expansion of this sector. Organic farming and the market for organic products are relatively young in the WBC. It evolved from an organic production in the form of single farmers or small groups of farmers who experimented with alternative ways of agriculture without using agrochemicals. For the last twenty years, their main concerns were their own health, the quality of the products and the health of customers. They searched actively for new ways to cultivate, process, and market food. These alternative ways of agriculture, however, were not necessarily called “organic“ production. Since the year 2000, the organic movement in most WBC countries experienced new dynamics, pushed by farming associations, chain actors, consumer groups and agro-food policy. The legal framework of the EU influenced the developments in the WBC as policy makers wish to adapt to EU legislation and market actors would like to see an EU-compatible legal framework to be established in WBC.

A specific study applying the Delphi methodology to investigate the organic market in the six countries was carried out in order to alleviate the fact that research into prospects of the development of the market for organic food and consumer motives related to organic food has not kept pace with the growth of the organic sector. In order to provide new and valuable data, a thorough review of secondary data sources was carried out from February to June 2010 and experts were surveyed according to the Delphi methodology. The objective of this methodology is to obtain a reliable response to a problem from a group of experts while the process guides the group towards a consensus.
This approach revealed particularly interesting findings. All experts reached the consensus that organic market in the WBC is in the initial phase of development but has great preconditions for expanding production (clean and fertile soils) and consumption. Influences on the national WBC organic markets are expected from the export of organic raw material and the import of processed organic products. Furthermore, the number of organic farms and the consumption in the WBC will increase. At the moment, there are not yet many professionals of organic farming and experienced consultants are lacking. The experts stated that currently, the most relevant impediments are the insufficiently organized market for organic products and the lacking state support. The organic production has a great influence on the economic, ecological and social development of the region because of the creation of new niche markets, which will offer new possibilities for employment and healthier food for the consumers while positively influencing the environment at the same time. Fruits, vegetables and imported organic products are expected to be the most promising categories on the organic markets in the future. The lowest support was given to meat and milk. As far as consumer behaviour is concerned, the experts agreed that consumers primarily are motivated by health related concerns and that promotional activities at educational institutions and better information of consumers are needed. The state and local governments can significantly improve the market potential by acting as a “pioneer buyer”, for example through the systematic provisioning of school and hospital kitchens with organic products. Experts believe that the respective governments should put special emphasis on the control system and certification scheme of organic food.
All experts highlighted the importance of implementing a Government strategy for organic farming and of regional and local government support. The strategy includes training and teaching motivating the producers, financial consolidation, and horizontal cooperation and labeling of organic products.
There is a growing interest of consumers to buy organic food products. This goes along with the overall trend towards a more health-oriented life style and growing concerns about sustainable development. According to the experts, the motives of consumers to buy organic products are health, prestige and environmental awareness.
As prior research in this field is limited, the results of this study are of great use for food manufacturers and distributors by supporting the development of marketing strategies to stimulate the organic food market.
The part of the results related to Croatia has been presented at the Macromarketing Conference in Berlin in 2012 (Barjolle D., Renko N., Butigan R., 2012, Delphi methodology application in organic food sector in Croatia, 37th Annual Macromarketing Conference, Berlin, 13-16 June 2012).
The consumer quantitative survey showed that knowledge about organic farming is near to inexistent in the WBC. Therefore, knowledge of organic farming and products must be developed and the availability of organic products should be increased in WBC supermarkets.
d) Traditional products
The market of traditional food in the WBC was also studied. It was found that the drivers for the consumption of traditional food are the desire to eat food high in natural content, the promotion of local or national origin of the food, and the favoritism of on-farm and small dairy production. In WBC, towns and rural areas still are strongly linked and most people are able to get traditional food products thanks to their family. In parallel, many products referring to tradition (“Protected Designation of Origin” – PDO- or “Protected Geographical Indication” –PGI- (referring to European regulation 510/06) products or equivalent, and “home-made” products) are available in different outlets, including retail chains. Several traditional products are also processed by the agro food industry in a more standardized way. Nevertheless, the importance and wide use of traditional food products are likely to lessen in the mid- and long-term due to agricultural professionalization and the enforcement of regulations related to food safety.
In Slovenia, the European legislation on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin (EU regulation 510/06) for agricultural products and foodstuff has been implemented. So far, around thirty Slovenian products are protected at the national level, and five of them already at the European level. However, there is a gap between what is considered to be traditional by the consumers and what is protected as a geographical indication. Furthermore, the official national logo indicating that a product is protected under this special regulation (protection of geographical names for traditional products EU reg. 510/06) is rarely known by the consumers, and the meaning of the label is mostly unclear. It is known from previous research that getting protected through the EU regulation is time and resource consuming. That is why the researchers recommended the potential beneficiaries to carry out a cost and benefit analysis before the procedure for the protection of the origin is initiated.
The conjoint analysis principally showed that traditional dishes are usually homemade and thus rarely bought as ready to eat products. The time consuming preparation of traditional dishes is at the same time, however, a barrier for the consumption. Targeting urban active people with ready to eat traditional dishes could increase their consumption.
Some hypotheses from already published articles were tested in a conjoint analysis. The conjoint analysis method is based on preferences stated by interviewees. It aims at deciphering the composition rules used by decision-makers to combine information into overall judgments. The five hypotheses were:
• Balkan consumers living in rural areas and small cities eat traditional products more often than the on living in big cities.
• Consumers often identify traditional products very opposite from industrial and strong branded food.
• Consumers buy traditional food most often from short distribution channels on local markets.
• Consumers eat traditional products very much in festive moments.
• Consumers perceive products with PDO as traditional food products.

Prior to the conjoint experiment, twelve Focus Group discussions were held. In those focus groups, cheese was generally perceived as traditional food in all six countries. ‘Fresh cow cheese‘ as a common food was therefore chosen as a research object of traditional food product in the WBC.
The studies showed that fresh cow cheese is eaten both in rural and urban areas in WBC. The main barrier for the consumption of fresh cow cheese is its expensiveness. The consumption of fresh cow cheese is linked to a strong family heritage. More than 80% of the respondents have eaten it when they were children. Moreover, fresh cow cheese is both a festive product eaten during celebrations and a daily food product well known and appreciated by consumers. This consideration is typical of traditional food, which is largely appreciated and then used both for daily and festive meals. The preferences also showed that when buying a traditional product, there is a strong aversion against industrial production and no specification of origin. Traditional attributes are important for Balkan consumers but the preference for pre-packed product and purchases in supermarkets may invert the tendency in the future.

One of the most striking results was that nearly 80% of the 1‘200 Balkan consumers interviewed said that they had bought food with a geographical indication. Geographical indications as defined in the European regulation 510/06, however, do not yet exist in some of these countries. As a definition was given in the questionnaire, the respondents may confuse ‘geographical indication‘ with ‘local origin‘ mentioned on the packaging of products without the presence of a geographical protected name and without any specific quality linked with the origin.

The results furthermore showed that there are consumers who have high requirements for hygiene practices during food production, even for on-farm and small dairy processing.

The analysis also focused on a segmentation of the consumers in order to identify specific behaviours when choosing traditional food products. The following four clusters have been identified:
- A cluster focused on local origin.
- A cluster focused on the scale of production (on-farm and small dairy).
- A cluster which strongly rejected high prices despite the quality of the product.
- A cluster preferring high prices and industrial products.

All the material and deliverables are available on the web-page at

Section II) Training

Another of the specific objectives was to develop skills related to consumer food science at public organizations, private enterprises and NGOs through trainings.
During the three-year period of the project, six trainings were organized. These two-day trainings were attended by the consortium partners and by participants active in relevant fields. The researchers, policy makers, and actors engaged in the production of high-quality food and local development met six times between February 2009 and January 2011 in the six countries of interest. These trainings united young and senior scientists and highly qualified professors. The starting point for tailoring the training curricula was the inventory of the competences within the consortium, so that training fitted the needs of the involved experts and institutions. The first training hold in Bosnia-Herzegovina aimed at upgrading the level of knowledge of all local project partners to adopt a common language and common principles. The participants became familiar with theories and basic concepts related to food habits and eating behaviors. The second training took place in Macedonia and included the history as well as the measurement of fruit consumption in WBC and Europe from the perspective of consumers. An overview of the results of similar EU projects (such as ISO FRUIT) was given and methodological tools of food consumer research were developed. A stepwise approach to social research was applied for research planning. Finally, transitional influences on food consumption, consumer choices and preferences, and supply chain organization were discussed. The third meeting in Montenegro allowed the participants to increase their knowledge on the development of products with nutritional and health claims and on the driving forces behind. Furthermore, the procedures for the registration of health claims in the EU and the implications of the highly unregulated market in WBC were among the topics discussed. The attendants investigated obesity and public health concerns in the light of food behavior. They also explored ways of how products with nutritional and health claims could support prevention. The fourth meeting was organized in Croatia and focused on the perspectives of the organic market in the Western Balkans. The module program included a discussion of the organic marketing channels and trends, research on the organic consumers and their motives, factors that affect demand, and market developments. The concepts of organic agriculture and processing as well as research theories and methods dealing with consumer expectations – in particular the conjoint analysis and Delphi approach – were part of this training‘s agenda. Next, participants of the training in Slovenia studied the subject of traditional food and consumer behavior. The attendants were introduced to the critical features of traditional products, the issues of legal recognition and promotion, as well as to consumer expectations concerning traditional food products. It was revealed that consumers expect primarily authenticity, traceability and specific sensory properties. In order to prove the last characteristic, a sensory assessment was presented as a driving factor in constructing the product‘s peculiarity. The last training focused on improving skills for publishing results of the food consumer research. It offered a reflection on high quality research, discussion of the data analysis process, of scientific writing, and of the preparation of successful project proposals for the follow up ideas. Statistical models of data analysis (SEM and IRT) were introduced using current datasets of the FOCUS BALKANS quantitative survey.
These FOCUS BALKANS training activities equipped the participants with knowledge about the principles of food consumer science and its application and gave them a good impression on the training quality as expressed in the evaluation of each training. The main achievements of this part of the project are a good regional coverage, an excellent level of exchange and networks established (even in heterogeneous groups), the familiarization with a multidisciplinary approach in consumer science, and the triggering of great interest in the subject. The brand of FOCUS BALKANS has been established in the trainings and capacities for research and for processing new information has been built up among the WBC scientific community.

Section III) Networking
The last specific objective of the project was to constitute a functioning and active network in the field of food consumer science in the WBC. The network of universities, institutes, high schools, consumer organizations, NGOs, and private enterprises enables the development of joint research activities. This has been achieved through a complete listing of all relevant stakeholders in the six countries. The contact details of scientists, policy makers, private companies, actors of the civil society, and other interested people have been collected and put online in a data-base. Based on this identification of the key-players, numerous networking meetings have been organized (two per year in each country, except in Slovenia where only one per year was held). In Macedonia, over 100 participants representing different stakeholders of the sector took part in the six networking meetings organized in Skopje. In Croatia, networking meetings were successful in presenting the project‘s progress and results thus motivating participants to continue their activities. Important contacts could be established and vivid exchanges of opinions and experience among various groups of stakeholders involved took place. This was a unique opportunity to activate synergies and to share knowledge and experience in this so far sparsely explored field. The involvement of highly qualified experts in the field of market research and quantitative and qualitative consumer data was possible through this network building activities.
Concrete outcomes of that work are – among others – plans of the FOCUS BALKANS scientists in Bosnia-Herzegovina to establish a long-term network on a regional and national level, a continued dialogue on food consumer science and food consumption trends with different groups of stakeholders (public and private sector actors and consumers) in Croatia, and the formation of a joint venture company specializing in the promotion of retail of organic products in the Western Balkan region. This partnership was fostered through the linkage of companies with similar goals and activities in the course of the FOCUS BALKANS project. Mostly, such contacts were facilitated through project networking meetings. The partnership mentioned above was the result of a bilateral meeting between a Serbian company called Global Seed and their Croatian colleagues Bio Vega. Together, the two companies visited a third company called Food Land and started the joint venture.
Three events for the whole FOCUS BALKANS community, two open seminars and one extended networking meeting, have been great opportunities to put the results of the research up for discussion and to elaborate more concrete business opportunities for new sectors such as the organic market and the health claim products‘ industry as well as for more established fields such as the fruit supply chain and the artisan suppliers of traditional products. In June 2011, for example, about 60 participants from all six Western Balkans countries attended the extended networking meeting in Podgorica (Montenegro). Findings on organic products and traditional food were discussed with all relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, some important lessons could be learnt. First of all, networking meetings need to be attractive and useful for participants thus offering them clear and long-term benefits. Second, better participation is reached when facilitators include regional and country level examples and interpretations. More intense media coverage would facilitate the dissemination of results and the inclusion of the local population but positive media reports are sometimes difficult to achieve. Taking into account how the trainings in the course of this project proceeded, a larger number of target groups could be invited for future trainings.
Overall, people have worked together in research activities during the whole project and they have exchanged many ideas and knowledge issues during seminars and networking meetings. These network activities have enhanced cooperation in the area of consumer science with the EU and neighboring countries. They were instrumental in the implementation of research packages via the creation of stakeholder dialogues and partnerships. Furthermore, they built a basis for taking up scientific collaboration with topically related Western European networks. The dialogue between consumers and food producers, including industry, has also started and will continue in the future when concrete projects are tackled. All the stakeholders have been invited to participate in the “Balkan Network for Food Consumer Science”, which seeks to stimulate regional and interdisciplinary co-operation.

Section IV) Needs for research and recommendations

For all the four studied markets (fruits, products with health claims, organic products and traditional food), there is a need for future research on food consumption, food and health policies, and market trends. The recommendation is to develop the collection of reliable data on food consumption in order to increase the scientific-based knowledge in three main general directions and to foster networking activities on food consumer science in Europe.

1. Research about consumers: food intake, food behavior, consumers‘ beliefs, expectations, preferences, motives, and attitudes
The main characteristics of the food intake and the food diet are highly related to food culture and habits. Therefore, the Western Balkans consumers are not behaving the same as the Western European consumers. Even if the Western Balkans is a region where a strong common cultural heritage leads to similarities in the food behavior, local differences are noticeable. Food and health policies have not yet provided their impacts to enhance the general level of wellbeing of the population. Hence, it is necessary to reinforce research particularly in these countries, both in terms of market development and public policy improvement.

2. Research about communication and information policies and tools (efficiency, target effectiveness, content, up-taking capacity and others more)
There is a general need to improve the communication between the stakeholders within the food system and, especially, communication addressing the consumers. This goes along with the improvement of spreading information among the stakeholders of the food system. Research should play a major role in developing innovative ways of communication, extension, and labeling.

3. Market research: structure, functioning, rules, organization, standards, investments, and others more
Market research should provide qualitative and quantitative data about the trends of each market to better evaluate future opportunities and threats. The various stakeholders need these data complementary to the research results on consumer behavior in order to elaborate the most appropriate strategies.

4. Networking on food consumer science in Europe
The development of an extended European network on food consumer science would increase the quality and the reliance of the research. This is needed as an infrastructure to achieve real impacts of the research activities. Food consumer science is currently a rather poorly defined field involving a broad range of scientific disciplines. There is therefore a need to develop new knowledge and new working methods related to this field. The Balkan network has been created but needs to be strengthened and expanded. Hence, a common European network including the Western Balkans should be created and should involve all the concerned disciplines. This is the only way to better promote new knowledge and to strengthen the discipline of consumer science in Europe.
Understanding consumer behavior and consumers‘ preferences plays a major role in improving food industry competitiveness as well as in improving the health and wellbeing of the European and Western Balkan citizens. The development of a critical mass (scientists, scientific disciplines, facilities, etc.), facilitation and promotion of data exchange, joint activities (protocols, metrics, collaborative studies, etc.) and comparability of research actions in the field of consumer science in food is needed today.

5. Specific recommendations for the four investigated markets
a) Fruits
In the WBC, fruit consumption strongly decreased since the 1990ies. In the last years, however, the consumption of fresh and processed fruits has been increasing. Nevertheless, it is still lower than in the EU countries. The majority of consumers have a positive attitude towards fruit consumption. They consider that eating fruit is a pleasure. Research to increase insights in consumer behavior, attitudes, preferences, and willingness to pay based on socio demographic data is needed in order to define and implement adequate strategies for the commercialization and consumption of fruits in the WBC.
Policy makers and public administrations including public health institutes should improve their efforts in the following way:
• Aligning statistical data collection per country including home-grown production and consumption of fruits will help in creating a pool of data uniform and comparable to the EU.
• Investing in nursery gardening for more specialization of production and higher quality of regional fruit production.
• Conducting information campaigns about fruit consumption in order to affect the eating habits of young consumers. The campaigns might be targeted to children directly in the schools.
• Building capacities among producers and processors in order to better master raising the awareness of consumers about the links between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and their general health situation.

b) Products with food and health claims
The food and health policies should serve as leading factors of accelerating change in the market of products with health claims in the future. Thus, in order to align the agro-food supply chain with healthier diets, key regulative aspects of nutrition labeling have to be considered. Government interventions should create a framework for positive industry action. The future research should be focused on the institutions that can help better aligning the growing agro-food supply chain with the development and adoption of healthy diets. The institutional reforms should be targeted to the design of the most effective tools to help public health systems to tackle the growing problems of food related diseases more efficiently.
Policy makers and public administrations including public health institutes should improve their efforts in the following way:
• Enhancing the cooperation among the government institutions involved in food safety issues and the respective NGO‘s through the creation of a network or exchange platform.
• Adopting the most relevant EU legislation in the WBC region.
• Forbidding the use of claims that might mislead the consumers.
• Intensifying public awareness campaigns about health claim products and diet.

c) Organic products
Generally spoken, the consumers have a growing interest to buy organic food products. The barriers are nevertheless high: there is still no clear image of organic farming. The willingness to pay is therefore limited. Research about organic products and its market therefore is needed at every stage of the supply chain. At the farm level, universities but also agricultural research institutes and even farmers themselves should tackle supply chain analyses or SWOT analyses and production statistics for species, varieties, breeds, techniques and technology. At the processing and distribution level, the gaps in the development of the organic sector should be covered. At the consumption level, qualitative research on motivations and barriers to organic food consumption should be reinforced and linked with quantitative research on attitudes and behavior.
Policy makers and public administrations including public health institutes should improve their efforts in the following way:
• Organizing producers in associations and cooperatives.
• Encouraging regional production for organic food (foremost for milk, cereals, vegetables and meat).
• Subsidising the conversion and / or maintenance of organic agriculture. Making the specific organic inputs and specific technology available and affordable.
• Supporting the extension service for new organic farmers. Supporting the know-how transfer on a regional, national, and international level.
• Guaranteeing the transparency and the accessibility of the labelling schemes.

d) Traditional products
Even though Balkan countries have a strong heritage of culinary traditions, there is a need for action in the promotion and consumption of traditional products. At the market level, transparency and better control mechanisms of quality are needed. At the production and processing level, there is a need to think about health issues and to improve the nutritional content of traditional products because consumers are often worried about the high fat and salt contents of traditional dishes. At the retailer level, a lack of promotion of traditional products is observed. Food miles labeling, information about nutritional and natural content, and innovative packaging may be drivers for a higher consumption. At the consumer level, a lack of knowledge was noticed. Better information of consumers about labels, regulations and their meanings should be developed.
Policy makers and public administrations including public health institutes should improve their efforts in the following way:
• Implementing a control system adapted to the different types of traditional food products in order to increase transparency and hygiene along the chain. Food hygiene regulations adapted to small local factories is needed.
• Taking into account the impacts on the environment and native biodiversity when promoting a traditional product.
• Giving incentive to small-scale processing collective initiatives to offer a wider range of products including some ready to eat and easy to conserve traditional products.
• Protecting local names via EU regulation of GI scheme, preferably PDO, instead of promoting strong private branding policy.
• Giving incentives to hotels, restaurants and shops to sell, promote and offer more traditional food products.
• Providing short education programs in schools to present traditional products of their respective region (products, environment, and biodiversity) but also traditional recipes with incentives for a healthy, local and seasonal diet.
• Giving incentives to schools to regularly offer traditional meals with local products.
• Developing cultural and education policy addressing consumers and citizens, providing opportunities for the consumption of traditional food products via festive celebrations of special events related to cultural heritage. This may favour the transmission of values related to genuine traditions and local food habits to young generations (in addition to foreign tourists).
Potential Impact:
The impacts of FOCUS BALKANS are manifold:

• Better knowledge about the determination of consumer behavior (drivers and determinants) in the countries of the Western Balkans.
• Increased dialogue between consumers and food producers including the industry of the region through its various trainings and meetings.
• Enhanced cooperation in the area of food consumer science between EU and the Balkan countries through its overall implementation process and management.
• A knowledge base provided by the project that supports policy making related to consumer behavior, health, nutrition, and food safety, relevant for the Health and Consumer protection Directorate General of the European Commission and for the national public authorities in the Western Balkan countries.
• Support in the fight against diet-related disorders by having helped research and public institutions to acquire the appropriate tools and methodology for a better knowledge of consumer behavior.
• An important contribution to the formulation of future policies and regulations in the area of food production, public health and consumer protection through the accurate scientific results of the research.
• Positive impacts in relation to the overall policy and sector policy outlined by the stabilization and association process (SAP), in particular as far as the improvement of the human potential and regional cooperation is concerned.
• Impacts related to the improvement of human capacities through:
o New methods and tools in food consumer science adapted to the Balkan countries.
o New modes of research organization and implementation, in particular through systematic multidisciplinary approach and evaluation procedures.
o Involvement of all stakeholders including decision-makers.
• Impacts related to regional cooperation through:
o Networking effort resulting in cooperation between the public and private stakeholders in the Western Balkan region.
o Joint projects and sharing of experience and ideas.

The various intermediate outputs have been summarized in three yearly reports.

Most important are:

First period (2008-2009)
? Analysis of the main features regarding food consumption in all the countries under review and assessment of the situation of the knowledge system regarding food consumer science in the Balkans including the identification of its key-players (registered in a data base).
? Establishment of the specific literature regarding food consumer science produced in the WBC with a complete database available on-line.
? Organisation of two trainings modules, with a total of 69 participants.

Second period:
? Report on the production and consumption of fruits and fruit products in the Balkans.
? Study report on consumer motivations and behaviours for products with health claims.
? Organisation of dissemination and networking meetings in the 6 countries targeted by the project.
? Organisation of 3 training modules with a total of 115 participants.

Third period:
? Implementation of three rounds of the Delphi methods as well as focus groups for exploring the market of and the consumer attitudes toward organic food.
? Conducting a conjoint analysis for the analysis of the food consumer behaviour and expectations related to traditional food by each Balkan partner.
? Organization of an extended networking meeting at the Balkan level to establish a regional network related to food consumer science, which includes researchers, associations, NGO‘s, institutions and others more.
? Dissemination of Focus-Balkans results in peer review journals and preparation of a scientific book.
? Organisation of a two-day training with around 25 participants.
? Organisation of two open seminars, one in Beograd and one in Brussels, with an average of 100 participants.

Through these results, the expected impacts (better access and availability of qualitative and quantitative data on consumer behaviour and market trends; segmentation of the Balkan population regarding food consumption; introduction of new methods and tools in food consumer science adapted to the Balkans; and bringing a dynamic in the field of food consumer science in the WBC) have all been successfully achieved during the three years of the project.

The actual and potential impacts can be categorized into socio-economic impacts and wider societal implications.

Socio-economic impact
a) Actual and real impacts: Qualitative and quantitative data on consumer behavior and market trends have identified variations between food consumer groups. New methods and tools have been developed and adapted to the Western Balkan countries (WBC). Six trainings of two days each have given the participants a theoretical basis for understanding food consumer science, an understanding of cutting-edge methods in the field of food consumer science, and up-to-date market data resulting from a learning-by-doing approach. This has provided participants with a pool of relevant data about market structure and opportunities, consumer trends and habits in the four markets studied. These new methods allow WBC scientists to carry on research in the field of food consumer behavior, to deepen their insights into the national, regional and local context and to fill knowledge gaps identified in the project. Furthermore, the different stakeholders having taken part in the open meetings can use the tools developed specifically for the Balkans to spread important information about food behavior of consumers in their countries.

b) Potential impacts: These activities potentially have long-lasting socio-economic impacts because they – ultimately – contribute to a healthier nutrition in the region and thus may lower public health costs. At the same time, awareness of the advantages of organic and traditional products and of local fruits was built up, thus potentially increasing the consumption of those foodstuffs. This, in turn, might stimulate local economies.

Wider societal implications of the project
a) Actual and real impacts: On a broader basis, local, regional and national networks have been built up. Furthermore, cooperation in the field of consumer science with the EU and neighboring countries is enhanced. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the study on fruit and nutrition balance had concrete implications because a follower study about the sensory and chemical characteristics of apples and pears was conducted from 2010 to 2011 and was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Republic of Srpska.
Institutional cooperation was also enhanced after this study had been carried out. Better knowledge of the determination of consumer behavior helps policy makers and NGOs to better target their initiatives and projects to the real needs of their consumers. The main contributions of the FOCUS BALKANS project that have societal implications therefore are the determination of consumer perceptions and their attitudes in the WBC that influence regional and European nutrition and health policies. The results of the surveys provided elements for decision making to policy makers of the WBC in relation to specific products and consumer behavior regarding food safety and the promotion of organic and traditional products and a healthy diet.
Even though this was not explicitly mentioned as an expected result, gender issues have been taken into account in the course of the project implementations and actual impacts were realized: equal gender participation was reached in the trainings and open seminars, thus equalizing the opportunities of local scientists and stakeholders.

b) Potential impacts: The implications of these networks and their respective activities could go as far as improving the scientific opportunities of the six included WBC by having fostered the competencies and skills of numerous scientists. The overall network allows its members to exchange knowledge and ideas in future thus leading to more interesting further projects. Similarities in consumer behavior among the countries can be used for common initiatives and disparities can make comparative studies more meaningful. Through the increased dialogue between consumers and food producers – including the industry – food producers can enhance their competitiveness by better targeting their production to the needs of the consumers and the consumers in turn benefit from products better fitting their needs.

Dissemination activities

Associating all stakeholders in the process, including on the one hand consumer and farmer associations, NGOs active in promoting organic agriculture and geographic indications, and on the other hand governmental bodies favored the civil society dialogue was the most important and effective dissemination strategy of this project.

a) Publications: Four newsletters, three leaflets, numerous scientific articles and publications for a wider audience (presentations at conferences and seminars) were produced and distributed during the three-years project. One scientific book has been published: “Food Consumer Science - Theories, Methods and Application to the Western Balkans” edited by Springer.
b) Meetings and open seminars: all partner countries organized local and regional meetings and the project partners carried out three open seminars where up-to-date results and recommendations could be disseminated. Representatives of ministries were invited and present at these meeting. At each meeting, field visits to meet private enterprises and research institutes were organised. This increased the outreach of the dissemination. All material is available on-line for wider dissemination. Especially, short videos have been made for professionals, summarizing the main findings and implications for food industry and policy makers in the region.
c) Project website:
The website has constantly been updated and contains a News and Event page, Project presentation page, Project results page (with the different meetings presentations), Database page (with database on publication in Food Consumer Sciences in the Western Balkan Countries and a database on the different organizations active in the field of Food Consumer Sciences in the Western Balkan Countries), and a restricted area page for all documents reserved to the FOCUS-BALKANS project consortium. Relevant pages have been translated into the six different national languages.
d) Videos: short videos have been made in order to make the results accessible for the professionals, the policy makers, the journalists and the consumers.

Exploitation of results

The results of the different research activities were exploited so as to define policy recommendations and needs for further research. In the field of fruits and balanced diet, it was found that the majority of consumers have a positive attitude towards fruit consumption. Eating fruits is considered to be a pleasure. Next to pleasure, health is another main incentive for fruit consumption. Research to deepen these insights into consumer behavior, attitudes, and preferences, and willingness to pay related to socio demographic data should deliver results that can be used as important predictors of consumer behavior by policy-makers and industry stakeholders. They thus can define, develop and implement adequate strategies for new fruit products and interventions to increase the consumption of fruits.

The studies on consumers‘ motivation for the consumption of products with health claims revealed that WBC consumers perceive products with health claims as innovative and socially responsible. Introducing such a range of products therefore can be useful for the image of the food enterprises and retailers. However, consumers are not sufficiently informed and they perceive functional food to target small specific groups (such as elderly or chronically ill people). An effective health claim should be understandable for the consumers, convincing through official approval of competent institutions or regulatory bodies, and relevant to the targeted consumers. Lacking public health policies hinder the development of this particular market. National policies for products with health claims therefore should be put higher on the political agenda in order to get a harmonized legal framework with the European Union.

Furthermore, the experts‘ forecast of the developments on the organic market showed that in the future, the demand for organic food will grow in all the WBC. This general consumption trend will be particularly strong in tourism, agro ecotourism, schools, and hospitals. The WBC organic market will, according to experts, be reinforced by measures of the EU Enlargement Policy. Due to accurate natural conditions, the organic farming has excellent preconditions in the WBC. To foster this strength of WBC agribusiness, all interviewees agreed that national strategies and action plans for organic farming are needed. Additionally, support of regional and local governments is indispensable. Experts consider increasing the structuring of supply chains, carrying out promotional activities, and informing consumers to be the key factors of success for organic farming.

The fourth study field that dealt with the attitudes, expectations, and with the behavior related to traditional food of consumers found that in general, the consumers have a very positive attitude towards traditional food. Different drivers explain the patterns of traditional food consumption. Among them are the importance of the belief in the natural content of that food, the promotion of products of local or national origin and the fostering of on-farm and small-dairy production. Different segments of consumers have been identified and key enhancements of the traditional food supply should be adapted to these segments in order to develop the market. For the conservation of the strong heritage of Balkan food products and its cuisine, the protection of the local name with the use of tools such as “Geographical Indications” is needed. This will allow harmonizing the regulations with the European Union, benefitting the producers and the consumers. Sustainable farming for the production of traditional food should be strengthened by appropriate public support. Traditional products should not be deceptive for the consumers, who believe strongly that traditional products are natural. This is a unique opportunity to endue these products with a strong identity, which can be a levier of further economic development in rural areas.

For all the four studied markets there is a need for future research on food consumption, food and health policies, and market trends. The recommendation of this project therefore is to develop the collection of reliable data on food consumption in order to increase the science-based knowledge in the three main general directions:
- Research about consumers: food intake, food behavior, consumers‘ beliefs, expectations, preferences, motives, and attitudes;
- Research about communication, information policies and tools: efficiency, target effectiveness, content, and up-taking capacity;
- Market research with a focus on the structure, functioning, rules, organizations, standards, and investments.

Address of project public website

Contact details of project partners
• ETH Zürich (coordinator of the project)
Institute of Environmental Decision - IED
Agri-food and Agri-environmental Economics Group - AFEE
Sonneggstrasse 33
CH-8092 Zürich
Dr. Dominique Barjolle:

Av. des Jordils 1
Case postale 128
1000 Lausanne 6
Magali Estive:

Jevrejska 7,
11000 Belgrade
Phone: + 381 11 2180 264
Pascal Bernardoni:
Josip Jagust:
Dragana Tar:
Goran Zivkov:

• Ipsos Strategic Marketing - SMMRI
Gavrila Principa 8
11000 Belgrade
Dr Hana Baronijan:
Dr Srdjan Bogosavljevic:
Dr Jasna Miloševi? ?or?evi?:

• DLO LEI Wageningen UR
P.O.Box 35, 6700 AA Wageningen
T +31 317 484791
Dr Siet Sijtsema:
Karin Zimmermann:

• VetAgroSup
89 avenue de l‘Europe - BP 35
63370 Lempdes
Phone: 00 33 473 987 039
Corinne Amblard:
Prof. Georges Giraud:
Dr. Julie Mardon:
Elise Prugnard:

• University of Newcastle, United-Kingdom
5 Barrack Road,
Newcastle upon Tyne,
+44 (0)1752 585652
Dr Matthew Gorton:
Ass. Prof. Dr John White:

Oberer Graben 22
Dr Burkhard Schaer:

58 A Rue du Dessous des Berges
75013 Paris
Tel:+33 1 45 84 01 94
Martine Laniau :

• University of Parma, Italy
Via J.F. Kennedy, 6 – 43100 Parma – Italy
tel. +390521/032469
fax +390521/032498
Prof. Dr Cristina Mora:

• University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Slovenia
Groblje 3,
SLO 1233 Domzale
Tel: +386 1 721 78 00
Fax: +386 1 724 10 05
Ass. Prof. Dr Marija Klopcic:
Prof. Jure Pohar:

• University of Zagreb, Faculty of economy, Croatia
Trg J. F. Kennedya 6
HR 10 000 Zagreb
Tel: +385 1 238 3333
Fax: +385 1 233 5633
Prof. Natasa Renko:
Prof. Sanda Renko:
Dr. Ruzica Butigan:

• University of Belgrade, Serbia
Faculty of Economics
Kamenicka 6
11000 Belgrade Serbia
Tel + 381 11 3021 222
Fax + 381 11 2639 560
Dr. Zaklina Stojanovi?:
Iris Žeželj, Faculty of Psychology, University of Belgrade:

• University of Banja Luka, Faculty of Agriculture, Bosnia-
Bulevar vojvode petra Bojovi?a 1a,
78000 Banja Luka, BiH
Prof. Miljan Cvetkovic:
Lidija Tomic:

• Institute of Public Health, Montenegro
Dzona Dzeksona bb
81000 Podgorica
Phone: +382 20 412 888
Fax: + 382 20 243 728
Prof. Boban Mugosa:
Dr. Ljiljana Zizic:
Borko Bajic:
Sanja Scepanovic:

• Institute for Health protection, Macedonia
50 Divizija 6; 1000 Skopje
Telephone: +389 23125044;
Fax: +38923223354
Dr. Vladimir Kendrovski:
Dr. Igor Spiroski:

• University of Wageningen, The Netherlands
Social Sciences Group P.O. Box 8130
6700 EW Wageningen
The Netherlands
Prof. Dr Ivo van der Lans:
Prof. Dr Cees De Graaf:

List of Websites: