Making use of flavours to increase consumer acceptance of novel healthy food products

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 off. Such choice heuristics allow consumers to quickly select products from a vast assortment of products, e.g. in supermarkets. 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 3) to further develop a research tool kit consisting of implicit and explicit tests that monitor consumer acceptance during repeated exposures.

For the food industry the benefits are in more clear strategies how to introduce reformulated products which are accepted by consumers. For the scientific community, especially the gained insight in the combination of implicit and explicit measurements to explain food acceptance is valuable. For society, the new strategies may facilitates consumers to make the healthier choices.