Purpose This study examines the social and cultural life of food innovations to inform food design thinking. The authors explore this through wellness regulating functional foods, foods scientifically modified for health benefits based on medical and nutritional claims, as a materialisation of food innovation in the marketplace.
Design/methodology/approach Drawing on affordance theory, where affordance relations enable potential for consumer food well-being regulation, the authors gathered in-depth interview data from diverse consumer groups across three illustrative exemplar functional foods.
Findings The research reveals how consumers engage in meaningful actions with functional foods in the experiences of their everyday lives. Four analytical themes emerge for consumer wellness regulation through functional foods: morality judgements, emotional consequences, social embedding and historicality.
Originality Analytical themes emerging from the findings are conceptualised as MESH, a useful acronym for the social and cultural life of food innovations within the design thinking arena. The MESH framework includes dichotomous cultural affordances that overlap and entangle different cultural themes weaving together consumers’ perceived possibilities for food well-being regulation. These cultural affordances reveal distinct paths that link consumer experiences and food design thinking.
- healthcare planning
Data availability statement
Data are available on reasonable request.
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Contributors This research work was a collaborative effort in which all authors contributed to its completion. Each author had an essential role in all the phases of the study, including concept formulation, data collection, analysis, interpretation, manuscript preparation and critical revision of the final document. The authors worked together to make crucial decisions about the study design, apply methodologies, and identify suitable data analysis approaches. The manuscript drafting process was also a shared responsibility, where each author contributed equally to the writing and revising of the content, ensuring it meets the highest academic and ethical standards. JT acts as guarantor.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.