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Health labels influence flavour perception

Gent University researchers found that food labels influence the perception of flavour. Light products are considered less tasty.
Researchers at the flavour lab Sensolab (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering) organized 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’.

Flavour perception
The results showed that the ‘light’ label, associated with a lower fat content, results leads to a lower overall liking of the cheese. Cheese with a claim about a reduced salt content, on the other hand, was labelled as equally delicious as regular cheese.
Furthermore, the researchers found that the flavour that we 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’.

Health promotion
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 is to work with more general health labels, as earlier research showed focusing on specific ingredients is not the best solution.
 
 

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