Triggering emotions can bring healthier foods to next generation, say index developers

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Encoding happy memories of healthier eating in childhood can inspire positive habits later in life, say developers of the Mustard Food and Drink Index
Encoding happy memories of healthier eating in childhood can inspire positive habits later in life, say developers of the Mustard Food and Drink Index

Related tags Healthy eating Nutrition

Identifying a child’s emotional response to food could help manufacturers develop better-for-you products for kids that encourage lasting healthy eating habits, according to the developers of a new database.

Insight On Foods recently developed The Mustard Food and Drink Index, which tracks how flavours trigger emotions.

Encoding happy memories

Nathaniel Davis, head of food research at the company told this site that the aim of the index was to deliver foods that induced positive emotions but with reduced caloric intake.

Davis, a psychologist by trade, said one way to encourage healthier habits was to encode happy memories of healthy eating in a fun format such as fast food from a young age.

“If they discover healthier foods early on, it can drive a greater desire late on. A lot of the good brands are taking responsibility and want to move this way.”

The Mustard Index

Insight on Foods’ index is based on around 49,000 global consumer interviews and is designed to help manufacturers cater to consumer needs.

It was developed by Thornton Mustard, a former managing director at Wrigley.

“The database can be used to see the leading characteristics in the category. It’s all about seeking the emotional reward the consumer wants,”​ said Davis.

“Preference always drives choice. When a product is preferred it means that it is accepted and the other is rejected.”

Catering to seasonal tastes

For example, if a manufacturer seeks to develop a moreish food, the index can pick out foods with high degrees of morerishness and can assess levels of consumer acceptance.

Davis said the database was particularly useful for identify characteristics that arouse emotions of a seasonal period. This could help a manufacturer develop goods that could sell well over seasons like summer or winter.

Consumer expectations

The index is being constantly updated and comes from 1 hour 15min interviews one-on-one and in group format.

Davis said the starting point was to discover when a person first encountered a product and to ask what emotions it triggered. If these were positive from an early age it could have some impact later in life.

He said the second stage was to look at the personality of the product using psychometrics.

“A yoghurt has to be rich, smooth and creamy and it has to deliver a degree of healthy indulgence,” ​he said as an example. “With chocolate, you have to deliver melt in the mouth for relaxation and indulgence.”

Light indulgence trend

Asked what trends, the index had helped companies spot, Davis said: “With younger people there is definitely a need for stimulation in the front of the mouth.” ​This may come through a strong initial sensation such as spice or crunch.

He said thin crust pizzas and Jaffa Cakes were two examples of products that did this well.

 “A big thing adults are looking for is light indulgence – something intense in the mouth but with fewer calories. We still want the flavour but we don’t want to pay the price so much,”​ he added.

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1 comment

Interesting new stuff!

Posted by Jenny Morley: non- profit sector company President,

I was fascinated to read about the Mustard Index! This is the man who gave us the Curly-Wurly and has now amassed an comprehensive data-base about food preference. Davis is using his Psychology base to enlighten the food industry using this approach: and you thought there was nothing new!

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