SLU news

Consumers want tasty food! Or is it something else behind their food choice?

Published: 14 April 2024

Consumers want to live a healthier and more sustainable life, and eat a healthy diet. Both academy and industry are working hard to satisfy these demands. But measuring only nutritional composition and calculating the environmental impacts are insufficient. Food must also be attractive and tasty.

Generally, understanding consumer acceptance of specific foods remains an ongoing challenge for both food industry professionals and scientists. Consumer perceptions and attitudes depend on many factors, among which are sensory characteristics of foods, economic determinants such as price and availability, and social determinants such as culture and surroundings. Additionally, beliefs and knowledge about food are very important.

To better understand the complexity of sensory science, food cultural aspects, as well as the role of marketing and communication, three PhD students from the Department of Molecular Sciences participated in the course “The consumer perspective on food”.  The course was organized by the graduate school LiFT (Future Technologies for Food Production​) in the period from April 8th to April 12th, 2024, at Örebro University.

Alejandra Fernandez Castaneda, Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade and Johanna Östlund are all developing new plant-based products, and the knowledge of how to examine consumer preferences and perceptions is essential for successful results. Leading experts in the fields from the academy and industry led the lectures, exercises, and workshops during the course.

Taste, flavour and appearance are among the most important attributes of food choice. During the course, highly recognized Swedish experts in sensory science explained the common sensory evaluation methods, their advantages and drawbacks, and ran two sensory tests, on plant-based foods and on Swedish caviar.

The students also learned about political consumerism and the social conventions of eating. The students also analysed food trends and discussed how the trends influence and are influenced by industry practices and product development.

“It is important to understand how social and political values can shape the food trends in both positive and negative ways”, says Alejandra.

“For example, process-phobia can influence consumer choices, even though there is no a clear definition of processed food”, explains Johanna.

“We should spread the knowledge and educate children from the very beginning in food consumption and eating healthy foods to shape the eating habits in adulthood”, adds Sunera.

As a co-event to the course in Örebro, LiFT PhD students had the opportunity to participate in the Food Science Sweden conference on April 10th and presented their research to a wider audience.

Alejandra, Sunera and Johanna found the course very interesting and useful for their progress in PhD studies. They thank LiFT, and especially Tatiana Marques from the Örebro University for organizing the course!