Taste Testing May Not Be Enough

Articles
May 03, 2010

Taste Testing May Not Be Enough

The University of Bristol evaluated participants’ satiety - both expected and actual - of a reduced calorie versus full-calorie meal; the study’s results were recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

The University of Bristol evaluated participants’ satiety - both expected and actual - of a reduced calorie versus full-calorie meal; the study’s results were recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. If the researchers could in fact find the key to unlock consumer’s taste profile for a reduced calorie meal, there is little doubt that CPG companies world wide could lead the charge in the fight against obesity. This small study, just 36 participants and just five lunch time meals, suggests that over five days, the participants were less satisfied overall with the lower calorie meal, even though they were not aware that the meal was in fact lower calorie. 
 
Here’s what happened: the participants were served two versions of spaghetti bolognese, one containing approximately 567 calories, 16g carbohydrates, 7g protein and 5g fat versus 374 calories, 13g carbohydrates, 5g protein and 1.5g fat were compared over the five day period. Participants rated each meal by how much they liked it, their expected satiation and expected satiety after the first bite. Hunger and fullness were assessed again when the meal was finished. The results? Both versions were equally enjoyed on the first day, but enjoyment for the low calorie version declined on the following days by about 30 percent. Not so fast…
 
The Lempert Report questions the difference in mouth feel, aroma and appearance of the lower calorie bolognese. We also question the idea of creating a low calorie version…isn’t bolognese supposed to be an indulgent meal. It is important to note that participants were either assigned the full calorie or low calorie meal for the entire five days at random; they were not aware that there was another version nor were they privy to the nutrition stats of their meal. The difference in fat and other macronutrients of the full calorie versus lower calorie version may have had a satisfying effect the first day, because of its overall novelty, but the following days the lower calorie/lower fat version just didn’t satisfy. Our conclusion, since the study itself did not detail the sensory attributes of the meals, is that the participants could clearly see and smell the difference of the foods. 
 
Nutrition and sensory research of foods is a relatively new, yet important science which could fast track development of foods that could truly become the nutraceuticals we have been hoping for to reverse diseases – however taste is (and will always be) #1. If a food’s aroma, mouth feel and taste does not deliver, consumers will neither buy the product nor change behavior. The challenge we put to the researchers is to develop protocols which study food behaviors holistically and actually emulate the buying and eating experiences.
 
The University of Bristol’s senior researcher Jeffrey N. Brunstrom, acknowledges that larger and longer term studies are needed to better understand consumers shifting affinity for reduced-calorie foods shifts over time.
 
For more information visit the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.