Research: label influences taste perception

18 Dec 2015

Researchers at Sensolab (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University) have organised a flavour experiment with young Gouda cheese for a test audience of 129 people, and found that taste is in the mind, not on the tongue.

Research: label influences taste perception

Researchers at Sensolab (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University) have organised a flavour experiment with young Gouda cheese for a test audience of 129 people. Without knowing it, the participants tasted the same cheese several times, but each time with a different label, such as 'light' or 'reduced salt'.

The results showed that the 'light' label, associated with a lower fat content, led to a lower overall liking of the cheese. Cheese with a claim about reduced salt content, on the other hand, was believed to be equally as delicious as regular cheese.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the flavour that was expected with a particular tag, was experienced even more. For example: the subjects reported that the cheese tasted less salty when carrying the label 'with reduced salt content'.

The researchers concluded that this study illustrates that flavour perception is between the ears, and that food labelling plays an important role. Food companies can take this into account, but the presented results are also interesting for health promotion purposes. If people tend to associate health labels with a lower liking, then the researchers suggest that health agencies should start to think about how the overall flavour perception could be improved. One solution, they said, is to work with more general health labels, as earlier research showed focusing on specific ingredients is not the best solution.

The research was published in the scientific journal Nutrients.