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Research study investigates differing responses to fat-reduced and sugar-reduced biscuits

9 September 2015

With concern growing over the effect on public health of certain types of food we consume, manufacturers are increasingly seeking to reduce levels of components like fat and sugar in their products. The aim is to create versions of consumers’ favourite snacks and treats which are healthier content – but without any perceptible difference in taste and texture – that can still be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. 

Research published in Appetite provides some insight into how the sensory experience of the consumer, as well as different methods of exposure, affects liking for fat- and sugar-reduced products. A total of 219 adults completed trials of breakfast biscuits made for the study by a French manufacturer – testing four variants each of sugar- or fat-reduced biscuits (up to 28% reduced sugar and 33% reduced fat). Half of each group received ‘stepwise’ exposure over four weeks, consuming a slightly more reduced variant of the biscuit at home each week, while the other half were subject to ‘direct’ exposure; taking home the most reduced variant every week. Participants’ liking for each variant, measured on a 10-point scale in the laboratory each week, was compared to their baseline generated at the beginning of the study, as well as their liking for a standard (non-reduced) product. A control group consumed only the standard biscuits.

 Initially, Biguzzi et al. theorised that both stepwise and direct exposure would increase liking for all fat- and sugar-reduced biscuits, as compared to the standard: differences between the increases seen from each exposure method would determine which method was best. Ultimately, this supposition was only partially validated by the results – only the most fat-reduced variant of the biscuits was liked less than the standard to begin with, and while liking for it increased (up to the same as the standard), there was not a significant difference overall between the exposure methods. For the sugar-reduced biscuits, in contrast, the intermediate reduction variants were also liked less than the standard. Exposure did increase liking, but not dramatically, and the most sugar-reduced variant remained poorly liked compared to the standard. Stepwise exposure did not produce the hypothesised ‘evolution’ of liking. The researchers concluded overall that direct exposure was slightly better than stepwise exposure, at least in the case of the most fat-reduced and some sugar-reduced biscuit variants.

In addition, the study highlighted some key factors that could affect the food industry’s efforts to offer healthier snacks: most importantly, that fat-reduced biscuit variants appear to be more acceptable to the consumer than sugar-reduced variants. Also of note are the findings that differences in liking were not generally due to taste or sugar/fat perception, but to texture, and that the attempt to make a sugar-reduced biscuit resulted in a recipe higher in calories than the original – all important considerations for a manufacturer wishing to deliver a consistent and appealing product.

RSSL’s Product and Ingredient Innovation Team has considerable experience in re-formulating products to provide healthier options. Find out how.

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