Higher cocoa percentages and single origin cocoa claims on dark chocolate labels fail to improve consumer expectations, according to a study.
The report ‘Influence of label information on dark chocolate acceptability’ published in the journal Appetite, found that consumers favoured premium brands for dark chocolate and were not influenced by high cocoa content and single origin claims.
Single origin shun
The research by Miriam Torres et al. said: “Claims about a high percentage of cocoa and single origin did not create higher expectations in these consumers compared to regular dark chocolates.
“Consumers did not like the sensory characteristics of chocolates with such a high percentage of cocoa (85%), and Ecuadorian origin was not appreciated by consumers as a feature that improves the sensory quality of dark chocolates.”
Single origin chocolate is chocolate made from cocoa beans from just one country.
The authors said sensory characteristics of the chocolate was the most important factors and they emphasised the influence of branding.
“Brand was an important factor in the consumer response to a chocolate product. For the premium brand dark chocolates, expectations were high and fulfilled by sensory characteristics of the products,” said the study.
The researchers asked 109 regular dark chocolate consumers to give their thoughts on six different dark chocolate products, varying in brand (premium and store) and cocoa-content.
Participants were evaluated under three conditions. Firstly, a “blind test” where they only tasted the chocolate, secondly an “expected test”, where they observed only label information and finally an “observed test” combing tasting and label observation.
Under the expected condition, participants said they were not influenced by one product claiming to have 85% cocoa and having an Ecuadorian cocoa origin.
Instead, participants tended to prefer premium private label products.
They were also not enthused by store brand, however, in the blind test these products were deemed to taste as good as private label products.
The authors said the study would help to understand consumer responses to new products.