Why food companies want to understand the way we eat

Are you a cruncher? Or a “smoosher”?

There are people that crave the crunch of a salty crisp, while others love the feel of a smooth vanilla pudding.

More and more food companies are attempting to get a better understanding of the interplay between texture and flavour, and which textures consumers prefer so they can match the attributes they desire and make their new products stand out on shelves.

Texture is in the top 5 lists of traits in packaging descriptions. Some companies are even combining textures, adding crunch or chew to drinks. To help meet this trend, we can use tests to help our clients calibrate the amount of crunch in a new product, for example. Understanding how texture claims can affect consumer buying decisions is also important when creating a product as consumers need to know they can trust a company on delivering the claim.

Consumer researchers Jacqueline Beckley and Melissa Jeltema say there may be “unexpressed need” behind people’s preferences for different food textures.

The two researchers, at Understanding and Insight Group, showed consumers photos of foods and recorded their responses to statements such as, “I like foods that I can smoosh. I even smoosh foods that I can chew.”

Smooshing is a way of manipulating food between the tongue and roof of the mouth without using the teeth.

Consumers, they found, fall generally into one of four major categories of texture preference and “mouth behaviour.” “Chewers,” the biggest group at 43%, enjoy the prolonged chewing action involved in eating, say, a soft cookie.

“Crunchers,” at 33%, favour the sound and force of a bite. “Smooshers,” at 16%, enjoy the smooth and creamy feeling, while “suckers,” at 8%, prefer the long-lasting hard-candy type of experience.

“If companies understand these differences, they can develop particular products for different groups,” Dr. Jeltema says.

You can learn more about Mouth Behaviour groups, or “eating styles” as Ingredion describes them, by watching our talking senses videos.

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