PhD dissertation: Transitions towards sustainable food systems - The case of the protein transition


This thesis builds on sustainability transitions literature to advance the conceptualization of transition dynamics in the food system by developing insights into the protein transition case, i.e. the recent reorientation of the food industry towards plant-based meat substitute products. While there are many empirical studies on sustainability transitions in electricity and mobility systems, research on meso-level sustainability transition dynamics in the food-processing industry is limited. This gap is significant when seeking to understand shifts in food production and consumption, because the conceptualization of innovation dynamics derived from previous transitions literature does not necessarily hold for transitions in the food industry.

This thesis specifically focuses on institutional change processes regarding the emergence and diffusion of plant-based meat substitutes and the behaviour of firms. The chapters in this thesis draw insights from different sustainability transitions frameworks, as well as other streams of social science literature, including organizational science and communication literature.

Overall, this thesis illustrates that while empirical sustainability transition studies have over-emphasized the bottom-up dynamics of radical innovation processes in the energy and mobility system, the protein transition case highlights the importance of endogenous change enacted by users and incremental improvements in existing products. It makes a number of important theoretical contributions including illustrating how political change processes can be a lever for accelerating sustainable innovation.

Start date and time
End date and time
Utrecht University Hall, Domplein 29
PhD candidate
Maria Tziva
Transitions towards sustainable food systems: The case of the protein transition
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. Dr. M.P. Hekkert
Dr. S.O. Negro
Dr. A. Kalfagianni