12 January - 20 June 2016

Consumer acceptance of reformulated foods lower in fat, salt and sugar

A major challenge of reformulation is maintaining consumer appreciation whilst offering a healthier food product for the consumer. A European project, which was part of the EU funded TeRiFiQ project, published in Food Quality and Preference by Salles et al. has investigated consumer appreciation of five commercial products (cooked sausage, chorizo, muffin, dry sausage and cheese) and their reformulated versions which have reduced amounts of salt, fat and sugar. The study also investigated if the products retained their competitiveness relative to other products on the market.

A major challenge of reformulation is maintaining consumer appreciation whilst offering a healthier food product for the consumer.  A European project, which was part of the EU funded TeRiFiQ project, published in Food Quality and Preference by Salles et al. has investigated consumer appreciation of five commercial products (cooked sausage, chorizo, muffin, dry sausage and cheese) and their reformulated versions which have reduced amounts of salt, fat and sugar.   The study also investigated if the products retained their competitiveness relative to other products on the market. 

To produce the reformulated products, Salles et al. applied a number of reduction strategies including modification of the industrial process, changes to the physicochemical and rheological properties of matrices, the use of emulsions, the use of replacers, or the addition of aromas.

The study was divided into two experiments.  For the first experiment, the scientists wanted consumers to assess the products at home, so they were tested under the “most natural consumption conditions”.  It assessed consumer perception of non-reformulated products with reformation versions, lower in fat, salt and sugar, for cooked sausage (reduced salt by 23% and saturated fat by 20%), chorizo (reduced salt by 40% and saturated fat by 60%), muffin (reduced salt by 20% and saturated fat by 25%), dry sausage (reduced salt by 35% and saturated fat by 70%) and cheese (reduced salt by 20%). Non-reformulated and reformulated products were packed in identical packaging, of similar shape, colour and weight.  144 participants were recruited and instructed to taste the food in a two week period at home. After consuming a food the participants were instructed to rate the product for pleasantness and willingness to pay. 

The second experiment, which was conducted in a laboratory, recruited 132 participants who were involved in the first experiment. The participants received 12g of each product for each version, reformulated, non-reformulated, store brand and trademark, and were told to order the samples of each product from the least appreciated to the most appreciated. 

Salles et al report that for the cooked sausage, the non-reformulated version was preferred over the reformulated however compared to the other products the mean pleasantness level for even the original version was as low as 4/10.  For cheese and muffin, reformulation did not affect the products pleasantness or ranking.  The products were also preferred to the two brands in the competition.  For chorizo and for the dry sausage the reformulated version “not only maintained consumer appreciation but also increased pleasantness, which was consistent with a higher reservation price of approximately 12% compared to the other samples.”

In conclusion the team state that whilst the results were disappointing for the cooked sausage, reformulation was successful in the remaining products.  They note that consumers are willing to pay the same price for formulated and re-formulated versions of a product. 

RSSL's Product and Ingredient Innovation Team, has considerable experience in re-formulating products to provide more healthy options including low salt, low sugar versions and using pre- and probiotics.  Using RSSL can help speed up your development cycle considerably.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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