Older adults often really like things that make younger people cringe, as many people know from experience. A new study, published in the international journal Food Quality and Preference, confirms that taste preferences between young and old can be very different - something to keep in mind when developing new products.
The team of researchers from Wageningen UR in the Netherlands, let a group of over 65s and a group aged around 30 taste three types of gingerbread (normal, wholegrain, and ginger flavour) and chocolate (milk, dark, and mint). For each product, the Dutch participants indicated how much they liked it and to what extent it evoked positive or negative emotions. Participants evaluated the products monadically in the sensory labs at Wageningen UR. All tastings were ‘blind’.
The elderly liked both gingerbread ginger flavour and mint chocolate significantly better than young people, and expressed positive emotions, such as pleasant, happy and excited. Interestingly, in the younger group, these products evoked the negative emotion ‘disgusted’. In general, when participants - both young and old - liked a product, they reported more-positive feelings; the less they liked it, the more-negative the feelings. The researchers speculate that the elderly have such positive associations with ginger and mint because these flavours may remind them of the past.
The study underlines the importance of target group segmentation in product development. "Product developers may want to tailor the taste of their product to their target age group - whether it is a protein drink, a protein-rich meal or a vitamin D supplement," says den Uijl.
Two age groups
This research focuses on younger people (80 in total and, on average, 29 years old), and over 65s (154 in total and, on average, 69 years old). The elderly, one half with a good sense of smell and the other half with an impaired sense of smell, were members of Wageningen UR’s SenTo panel of older consumers. This gave the researchers unique insights into taste preferences and product experiences of younger and older consumers.
About the publication
The publication ‘Emotion, olfaction and age: A comparison of self-reported food-evoked emotion profiles of younger adults, older normosmic adults, and older hyposmic adults’, was published in the international scientific journal Food Quality and Preference in 2015. The study is part of the doctoral research of Louise den Uijl, which focuses on the tailoring of protein-rich foods to elderly subgroups.
About the SenTo panel
The SenTo consumer panel (SenTo: Dutch abbreviation for Seniors of the Future) of Wageningen UR gives insight into the food needs and wishes of seniors, facilitating development of tailored products. This way the chance of products to succeed in the market increases. The 800-plus SenTo participants are independently-living seniors between 55 and 93 years of age, with varying levels of education, and all with access to the internet. They regularly complete questionnaires about their health, their weight, and their social lives. The sensory performance - taste and smell - of the majority of the panellists has been tested. SenTo’s composition - in terms of size and composition - is unique in Europe, which makes it possible to address a broad range of questions about older subgroups.