This paper presents a novel approach to gain a deeper understanding of the forces driving sustainability transitions in food production and consumption. It follows a complex adaptive systems approach to study processes leading to sociotechnical innovations on a timescale of typically a decade. Dramaturgical analysis and agent-based simulation are combined to analyse how systems of institutional arrangements and production technology adapt to changes in public opinion and disrupting events like the outbreak of animal diseases or public health hazards. A dramaturgical analysis on the basis of newspaper articles and parliamentary records is performed for two cases. The resulting patterns of behaviour of key actors in these processes are modelled in an agent-based simulation. The purpose of the agent-based simulation is to validate that the assumed behaviours lead to the observed innovations, and to study how the system could have developed under different behaviours or a different course of external events.