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The Taste of Expectation

There is no shortage of claims being made across all categories of food and drinks within our supermarkets. From claims such as low fat, diet, and salt or sugar reduced, to claims such as organic, socially responsible or now with added protein, we couldn’t help but wonder how these claims are impacting the taste experienced by the consumer.

On the face of it, many of these claims are associated with negative taste perceptions. Whilst some of this expectation is based upon prior experiences of products with these claims failing to impress you, there is a deeper issue at play.

In an independent study covering nine different claims and categories of food and drinks, pod research & strategy explored if claims being made about common grocery items are impacting on our expectations of taste and if this change in expectation ultimately impacts on how we perceive taste.

We took a look at how a range of products performed in a blind sensory evaluation without the claim and also how they performed when the claim was introduced. The results across all categories tested highlight some interesting areas for consideration for us as researchers when designing sensory research but also for the food & beverage industry in the usage of different types of claims and how this will impact their product.

Generally our results showed that even though a negative claim typically results in a lowering of expectations by the consumer, it was rare for the product to achieve even the lowered level of expectation and resulted in overall dissatisfaction. Simply put, we don’t expect a reduced salt soup to taste as good so it doesn’t. Yet give someone that same reduced salt soup without telling them it is reduced salt and it is perfectly acceptable.

With the ever increasing social healthcare issues such as rising obesity levels, the increase in heart disease and diabetes that we are facing not just here in Australia but on a global level, we reflect on how manufacturers could be making these reduced or diet formulations and enable the adoption of healthier products without impacting their perceived taste.

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