The research looked at the connection between the sensory characteristics, packaging and label information of enriched and reduced calorie biscuits, with the overall acceptance and perceived healthiness.
The authors concluded that those taking part in the test were “not able to sacrifice taste for health in this kind of product”. However, the perceived health benefits could be elevated by the packaging alone.
The study, published online in Food Research International this month, is called 'Effects of food package information and sensory characteristics on the perception of healthiness and the acceptability of enriched biscuits'.
Ten enriched and reduced-calorie sweet biscuits were used, purchased from a variety of supermarket chain stores in Spain.
They were selected on the basis of nutritional and health claims and information given on the packages, with homogeneity of shape and size in mind. Biscuits with pieces of fruit or chocolate or with fillings were not used.
Ninety regular biscuit consumers took part in the research, aged between 22 and 66 years old and 70 per cent were women. All were responsible for shopping in their households.
The study was divided into three separate scenarios; blind tasting, informed tasting and expected condition (only seeing the biscuit packages).
The results showed that overall acceptance was higher for almost all the biscuits in the blind test, whereas seeing only the package showed a trend towards higher perceived healthiness.
This suggested that “not only claims but also brand or category could potentially mislead consumers into thinking that some products are healthier than they actually are”.
Examples of some of the health and nutrition claims include:
'Low in salt; No added sugar; With wheat and oats'
'With folic B and nonvisible fibre: Delicious way to help care for the heart'
'Whole wheat; With inulin and fructose; High fibre content; Helps to burn fat'
'No added sugar; Prebiotic (23% fibre); High oleic'
Similarly brand, familiarity with the product and familiarity with the claim were found to play an important role in enhancing the overall acceptance of some biscuits, potentially influencing the initial purchase.
This suggested that non-sensory factors could influence the first buy and sensory characteristics could determine loyalty and repeat consumption of certain enriched or reduced-calorie biscuits.
The authors concluded that participants couldn’t sacrifice taste for health even when they considered that some food components were beneficial for the diet.
However, they also noted that the number of participants did limit the study.
In 2007 the first European regulation specifically addressing nutrition and health claims came into force to avoid misunderstanding and to protect consumers against false information.
The regulation (1924/2006) meant that any food product claiming to have a health or nutritional benefit must meet a list of European Commission approved wording.
Source: Food Research International
Title: Effects of food package information and sensory characteristics on the perception of healthiness and the acceptability of enriched biscuits
Authors: Elizabeth Carrillo, Paula Varela, Susana Fiszman