Researchers from the University of Wageningen tested different products, such as milk chocolate, dark chocolate, mint chocolate, plain gingerbread and extra strong gingerbread for three different groups: young adults, seniors aged over 65 years with an impaired sense of smell and seniors with a normal sense of smell.
They found that the younger subjects associated strong ginger flavour with emotions such as ‘disgusted’ whereas the seniors stronger linked these flavours to positive emotions, such as ‘pleasant’, ‘happy’, and ‘enthusiastic’.
Similarly, while mainly positive emotions were noted across all three groups for the milk chocolate, younger participants linked the mint version to the emotions ‘wild’ and ‘disgusted’ while the seniors felt ‘pleasant’ and ‘satisfied’. Those who were smell impaired found the mint version to be ‘mild’ more than the seniors with a normal sense of smell.
The study underlines the importance of target group segmentation in product development, say the researchers.
"Product developers may want to tailor the taste of their product to their target age group - whether it is a protein drink, a protein-rich meal or a vitamin D supplement," says lead researcher Louise den Uijl.
“The current results can provide R&D guidance beyond the traditional liking and sensory characteristics .This guidance seems to be important with an eye on the increasing need for tailored and emotionally meaningful products for seniors,” write the authors, who published their results in the journal Food Quality and Preference.
“Moreover, when applied to – for seniors – nutritionally beneficial food products (e.g. protein rich products), these marketing strategies may aid to better meet the nutritional requirements of senior consumers.”
According to the authors, emotional associations are much more important in older people’s food choices than for younger people as they are formed upon experience and memory. They can therefore differ from younger adults in the intensity of their food-evoked emotions.
But Den Uijl et al. say the emotional response to different foods, such as everyday staple foods or complete dishes, may differ than for these snack-type foods, and have called for future research to focus on these.
The experiment compared the emotional responses of group of younger adults aged between 18 and 45 years to that of a second group of 70 seniors (aged over 65 years) who had an impaired sense of smell (hyposmic) and 84 normosmic seniors. Nasal chemosensory function was measured using a TDI score.
The subjects were given six products to evaluate: three types of dark chocolate (milk, dark with 70% cacao and dark chocolate with mint flavour) and three types of ginger bread (regular, a wholegrain variety that was slightly less sweet and a strong ginger-flavoured gingerbread).
After a one-hour tasting session, data was collected using a questionnaire to measure self-reported food-evoked emotions. They were asked to rate liking on a nine point scale and then the intensity of a range of emotions, such as active, adventurous, bored, disgusted, nostalgic, joyful or wild, from ‘not at all’ to ‘very strong’.
Source: Food Quality and Preference
‘Emotion, olfaction and age: A comparison of self-reported food-evoked emotion profiles of younger adults, older normosmic adults, and older hyposmic adults’
Available online 28 September 2015, doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2015.09.011
Authors: Louise C. den Uijl et al.