Focus on fat not sugar reduction to keep consumers: Study

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

Focus on fat not sugar reduction to keep consumers: Study

Related tags: Nutrition, Photosynthesis

Companies who reformulate to reduce sugar may risk losing more consumers than with reduced fat, find researchers.

The researchers, who published their findings in Appetite Journal​, gave a variety of biscuits with up to 33% reduced fat content or up to 28% reduced sugar content to over 200 participants to evaluate the efficacy of positioning different ingredients in reformulation as well as different strategies.

They found that for the reduced fat category, subjects reported liking all the biscuits as much as the original except for the biscuit reduced the lowest fat level (-33%). Conversely, subjects eating the sugar variants reported liking both intermediate biscuits and the most sugar-reduced variant less than the standard one.

Biguzzi et al. wrote that unlike bread, which is a staple food that cannot easily be replaced by another and may therefore be more resistant to reformulation, sales of luxury products such as biscuits would likely  suffer from recipe changes. 

"In a real context of purchase and consumption, consumers would not continue to buy and consume biscuits they do not like, since this is a product mostly consumed for pleasure. They would consume another brand of the same type of biscuit, or switch and consume another type of biscuits or another food,"​ they wrote.

“The biscuit industry should rather look for fat than sugar reduction,” ​conclude the authors from the Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l'Alimentation (Centre for Taste and Food Sciences) in Dijon, France.

The calorie paradox

The study drew attention to some of the challenges that manufacturers faced when reformulating products. Paradoxically, the sugar-reduced biscuit used in the experiment – provided by one of France’s major biscuit producers – had a higher calorie content than the original due to the addition of fibre, bulking agents and polyols.

“Consequently, consuming this product does not permit to reduce the energy intake but only to reduce the sugar content ingested. Indeed, the improvement from a nutritional point of view can be questioned,” ​they wrote.

Sensory profiling of each biscuit variant also showed the reasons cited by participants for lessened liking were mainly textural changes rather than taste.

The most reduced sugar biscuit was perceived as bitterer, less crispy and less dry than the standard one while the reduced fat biscuits were seen as drier and crispier.

The study

A total of 113 individuals were assigned to the fat group and 106 to the sugar group, both of which participated in five weekly tasting sessions in laboratory conditions where they rated their liking of the five variations. Subjects were then split into three groups and given 16 biscuits for home consumption during the week: a control group which received both standard biscuits, a direct group which received the most reduced biscuits and a third group which received the reduced variants in gradual increments.

Researchers found at the end of the direct exposure, group liking for the most reduced fat content variant significantly improved but liking for the sugar variant only improved for the 9% and 16% and not the maximum sugar reduction level of 28%.

Source: Appetite Journal

“Effect of sensory exposure on liking for fat- or sugar-reduced biscuits”

First published online July 2015, Vol 95, December 2015, pp 317–323, doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.07.001

Authors : C. Biguzzi ​C. Lange, P. Schlich et al.

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