Taste, texture, smell or appearance: Which is most important in overall liking?

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

New product developers often focus on overall liking of a food or drink during the NPD stage - but which sensory characteristic is most important? Danish researchers tried to find out.

The most commonly used method to determine liking is the 9-point hedonic scale, which was developed by Peryam and Pilgrim in 1957. This method, however, assesses overall liking and therefore does not allow new product developers to know if a single sensory characteristic - appearance, odour, taste or texture – is more important than the others.

Given that consumers do not pay equal attention to all four sensory modalities, it is important for food manufacturers to know which sensory modality is most important when consumers report overall liking of a product.

The researchers from Denmark’s National Food Institute and the Danish Technical University (DTU) gave a total of 67 individuals four different apple-cherry fruit drinks, each of which was slightly different.

One was sweetened with sugar, one with stevia from Pure Circle, one had PromOat beta glucan fibre added and the fourth one had lime flavour, supplied by Döhler.

To assess overall liking, the researchers asked participants ‘How much do you like the fruit drink?’ while questions about liking of sensory attributes followed the form “how much do you like the taste/texture etc?’, with subjects answering on a scale of one to nine.

It was found that the consumers did not pay equal attention to all sensory modalities. Consumers primarily paid attention to liking of taste (to be understood as flavour) and least attention to liking of odour (to be understood as orthonasal aroma perception). However, future research will have to clarify, if this finding can be generalised across individuals, products and food categories​,” the researchers write.

“As products did not differ in basic taste attributes, the study shows that consumers interpret and/or use the term liking of taste different from its scientific meaning (liking of basic taste attributes). Instead, the consumers interpret and/or use the term as liking of flavour, by combining aroma and taste in their hedonic evaluation.”

“Further, the study illustrates the importance of discriminating retronasal aroma perception (oral) from orthonasal aroma perception (sniff) in olfaction​ and when studying drivers of overall liking (and sensory satisfaction). During consumers’ evaluation of liking of odour, aroma compounds were perceived orthonasally by sniffing. In consumers’ oral evaluations (liking of taste) not only basic taste compound were perceived, but also aroma compounds perceived retronasally contributed to the overall impression of flavour.”

The researchers have called for more research focusing on other types of products within the beverage category and other food categories.

Source: Food Quality and Preferences

“The importance of liking of appearance, -odour, -taste and -texture in the evaluation of overall liking. A comparison with the evaluation of sensory satisfaction”

Available online ahead of print, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2018.07.005

Authors: Barbara Vad Andersen, Per Bruun Brockhoff, Grethe Hyldig

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