Picture comparison can predict children’s food preferences, study suggests

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Picture comparison can predict children’s food preferences

Related tags Scientific method

Children’s liking of specific foods can be accurately assessed by asking them to compare pictures on a computer screen, suggests new research that could help manufacturers in their development of new child-friendly foods.

A team of Danish researchers set out to explore the effectiveness of an online method for evaluating children’s food preferences, as children are increasingly involved in family food choices and represent an important market for food and drink makers.

They asked 300 participants from Copenhagen schools to choose between pictures of buns and juices on a screen to indicate preference, and then asked the children to evaluate actual products – two juices and four buns – for appearance and taste.

Finally, they asked children to choose between two actual buns and juices, and found that their choices did correspond to their earlier picture choices. By performing the experiment again four weeks later, they also found that the results were reproducible across different days.

“Obviously, tasting a food can reveal liking of that specific product in either qualitative or quantitative measures. However, this procedure is tedious, expensive, impractical in large scale and has the pronounced disadvantage that children can only taste a limited amount of foods before getting satiated, which might affect their evaluations,”​ the researchers wrote in the Journal of Sensory Studies.

“An alternative method is the use of pictures. This method focuses on visual appearance, and appearance is often the first sensation to arouse interest in a given food.”

Previous research has suggested that children pay more attention to appearance, colour and amount of food to establish whether they like a food than adults. Therefore, it is important that realistic images are used for accurate results.

“The method is easy and inexpensive to use, requires little time and effort from participants, is suitable for online testing and can quickly be applied to high numbers of participants,”​ wrote the researchers.


Source: Journal of Sensory Studies

Vol. 27, pp. 264–276. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-459X.2012.00391.x

“Measuring Children’s Food Preferences: Using Pictures in a Computerized Conjoint Analysis”


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