Labeling and Information Effects on Sensory Acceptance

Consumers’ sensory acceptance of food products is complex and interdisciplinary, encompassing all aspects of food science, marketing, nutrition, psychology and hospitality1. Acceptance depends on many things: sensory attributes, consumer physiological, behavioral and cognitive factors2,3 and the ability to understand these variables is important.
Research shows that cues: intrinsic and extrinsic, help to study sensory acceptance. Intrinsic characteristics, including taste, aroma and color often cannot be altered without changing the nature of the product and these characteristics are usually specific to the product. Extrinsic characteristics include brand name, price, advertisement, labeling and country of origin4. The U.S. has become interested in also knowing about quality attributes such as food safety, animal welfare and organic production5.
No matter which cues are being tested, in order to collect as much information as possible from consumers, it is necessary to consider the amount of information provided in the study. Blind testing is defined by Moskowitz6 as evaluating products without the benefit of product identification. Branded testing is evaluating products with some product knowledge given to the consumer. Moskowitz6 said that when a consumer assigns an attribute rating to a product without knowledge of product identification, ratings may dramatically change when they are given the identification.
According to Siret and Issanchou7, labeling usually is considered to have a positive effect on overall acceptability. Bower, Saadat and Whitten8 evaluated 70 consumers and looked at the effect of liking, information, and consumer characteristics on purchase intent and willingness to pay more for two fat spreads with proven health benefits. Unlabeled testing showed significant differences in overall liking of the spreads and purchase intent. Labeled testing also showed a significant difference in overall liking when information was provided. Results showed that purchase intent was significantly affected by label information, such as price and nutritional benefit. The significant difference in liking between the two spreads contributed to the intention to buy, with higher purchase intent for the product which was liked more. This study indicates that consumers are aware of the label information on products.
Other times labeling could have a negative effect on consumer acceptability. Cues often are communicated by the media to influence consumers’ liking of different products8. Berger and Mitchell9 showed that advertising can influence more than just the evaluation dimensions of attitudes. It can influence how easily an evaluation is accessed from memory, how confidently it is held and how likely it is to influence subsequent behavior. For example, Siret and Issanchou7 found that non-traditional information provided on ground pâtés from France created low expectations and had a negative effect on visual evaluations. Levis and Chambers10 showed that labeling products as low salt reduced scores for low salt potato chips, which they associated with negative perceptions about more healthful products at the time. When consumers have a negative acceptance of a product it can lead them not purchasing the product. Deliza and MacFie11 stated that how advertisements are presented, as well as the price and appearance, can appeal to consumers differently.
If testing of consumer acceptance is the study objective, then considering the effect of labeling will be important to successful results. It is widely known that sensory properties are important to determine consumer liking of products and paying attention to the effect of different types of labeling could enhance knowledge in the product category. Incorporating label information and not manipulate the data being collected leads to a successful learning experience of the product.


1 Imram, N. (1999) The role of visual cues in consumer perception and acceptance of a food product. Nutrition and Food Science, 5 (September/October), 224-228.
2 Monaco, R. D., Cavella, S., Di Marzo, S. and Masi, P. (2004) The effect of expectations generated by brand name on the acceptability of dried semolina pasta. Food Quality and Preference, 15, 429-437.
3 Nasser, A., Dine, El. and Olabi, A. 2009. Effect of Reference Foods in Repeated Acceptability Tests: Testing Familiar and Novel Foods Using 2 Acceptability Scales. J of Food Science, 74, 2, p 97-106.
4 Jover, A. J.V., Montes, F. J. L., & Fuentes, M. d. M. F. (2004) Measuring perceptions of quality in food products: the case of red wine. Food Quality and Preference, 15(5), 453-469.
5 Beriain, M. J., Sanchez, M. and Carr, T. R. (2009) A comparison of consumer sensory acceptance, purchase intention, and willingness to pay for high quality United States and Spanish beef under different information scenarios. J Animal Science, 87, 3392-3402.
6 Moskowitz, H. R. (1985) New Directions for Product Testing and Sensory Analysis of Foods, Westport, Connecticut: Food & Nutrition Press, Inc pg 53.
7 Siret, F. and S. Issancho (2000) Traditional process: influence on sensory properties and on consumers’ expectation and liking Application to pate de campagne. Food Quality and Preference 11 p 217-228.
8 Bower, J. A., Saadat, M. A. and Whitten, C. (2003) Effect of liking, information and consumer characteristics on purchase intention and willingness to pay for a fat spread with a proven health benefit. Food Quality and Preference, 14, 65-74.
9 Berger, I. E. and Mitchell, A. A. (1989) The effect of advertising on attitude accessibility, attitude confidence, and the attitude-behavior relationship. J Consumer Research, 16 (3), 269-279.
10 Levis, P.A. and Chambers, E. IV. (1996) Influence of health concepts and product acceptance: a study with plain potato chips. J. Food Prod. Marketing 3(4): 45-63.
11 Deliza, R. and MacFie H. J. H. (1996) The generation of sensory expectation by external cues and its effect on sensory perception and hedonic ratings: A review. J Sensory Studies, 11, 103-128.

Bibliography: Some Examples of Relevant Studies

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14 Bilkey, Warren J. and Erik Nes, (1982) Country of origin effects on product evaluations. J. International Business Studies 13:1 p 89-99.
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20 Issanchou, S. (1996) Consumer expectations and perceptions of meat and meat product quality. Meat Science, 43, S5-S19.
21 Jover, A. J. Verdu, Montes, F. J. L. and Maria del Mar Fuentes (2004) Measuring perceptions of quality in food products: The case of red wine. Food Quality and Preference, 15, 453-469.
22 Moskowitz, H. R., Benzaquen, I. and Ritacco, G. (1981) What do consumers really think about your product? Food Engineering, 1 (Nov), 80-82.
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26 Sosa, M. and Sidel, J.L. (2006) Sensory expectations of children from different household incomes for branded confectionery product. J. Sensory Studies, 21(2), 155-164.
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