Flavors and consumer acceptance
In order to help consumers change their diet towards more healthy and sustainable foods, knowledge is required in about how food habits are formed based on the familiarity of the food flavours, and under which circumstances these habits can be changed. This knowledge development is hampered by the limitations of our response measurements. Traditional food testing involves participants that are requested to focus on the products after which they formulate their responses using for example rating scales for liking or sensory attributes, which goes against most normal consumer behaviour. In daily life, most food-related decisions are made automatically, based on situational cues that consumers are hardly ever aware of. Alternative measurements that do not rely on consumers explicit thinking their choices through, need to be developed.
Implicit measurements can be employed, such as physiological responses but also observation of specific behavioural responses of the actual choices made in manipulated situations. Recent studies suggest that these measures may better relate to real-life repeated food choices than existing measures.
The aim of this project is threefold:
1) to investigate the development of familiarity and acceptance of food products with new flavours (either reduced existing flavours, new flavours or new flavour combinations),
2) to gain insight in the effect of congruent and non-congruent food combinations in food acceptance, and
3) to further develop a research tool kit consisting of implicit and explicit tests that monitor consumer acceptance during repeated exposures.
The study performed in 2019 showed that that prior knowledge about a congruent product-flavour combination increases expected liking and (assumedly) less congruent product-flavour combinations are expected to taste worse. Liking patterns after tasting differ from anticipated liking patterns (before tasting); the differences in liking between conditions are smaller after tasting. In 2020 this study was further analysed and the scientific publication has been drafted.
A follow up study aiming to explore relationships between implicit and explicit measures of product emotions elicited by anticipated and actual tastes of unfamiliar congruent and non-congruent flavor-food combinations was prepared. In this study, planned for May-June 2020, participants’ facial expressions, EEG activity, heart rate and skin conductance will be recorded during preparation (expectation) and tasting. Due to the corona restrictions and the close proximity of scientist and participant required for performing this study, this study has not been performed yet.
Due to the corona measures, plans for new studies were adapted. The Novel Food study was adapted to an in-home study on repeated exposure to novel foods. The study aimed to increase understanding in the acceptance of, for the Dutch people, novel foods (i.e. koya-tofu). Research questions to be answered were:
• How are foods evaluated without any prior experience?
• How does the food evaluation change upon repeated exposure to the food with one of the flavours?
• How are the similar foods evaluated after repeated exposure to one of the three flavours?
• What is the role of familiarity of the flavour on acceptance of the food?
Participants were tasting three different flavoured koya-tofu samples and one gingerbread sample one week before start of the study, in front of a webcam (facial expressions and tasting duration), while answering questionnaires on e.g. liking and sensory attributes. For two weeks, the participants tasted every weekday one sample (one flavour for the two-week period). At the last day the four products were tasted again. This study was approved by the SEC.
Preparations took place for the “Smaakmaker” study, internally called the congruency study. The previous study demonstrated that certain flavour-dish combinations are expected (anticipated) to be better liked and to be better fitting or more congruent than other pairs. Expectations also affected subsequent actual taste experiences. This study used only a very small number of flavour-dish combinations which makes generalization difficult. The current study aims to investigate whether the findings can be generalised with the ultimate goal to develop a rapid screening tool for anticipated and actual acceptance of new congruent and incongruent flavour-dish combinations. The study, approved by the SEC, has three parts:
- Part 1 – at home: participants receive 72 descriptions and images of flavour-dish combinations, where they have to indicate if the condiment fits the dish. In addition, liking of the dish and the condiment is asked and reaction times are measured.
- Part 2 – at home: the same set up as part 1, but in part 2 participants also receive the actual condiments and taste them before evaluating the flavour-dish combinations.
- Part 3 – in sensory facilities: participants will taste 8 flavour-dish combinations, which will be selected based on the outcome of part 1 and 2.
• Submission of the publication of sensory perception of congruent and incongruent flavour-carrier combinations.
• Further analysis of the results of the Novel Food study and drafting a publication.
• Execution and analysis of the three phases of the congruency study and drafting a publication.
• When possible in light of the corona situation, the study with implicit and explicit measurements (EEG, facial expressions) on different flavour-food combinations will be executed.