The way consumers interpret words relating to complex senses, like ‘creaminess’, may have important cultural differences – even in people who speak the same language, according to a new study.
The research, published in Journal of Sensory Studies, investigated the cultural differences associated with the notion of ‘creaminess’, finding that differences in the concept are country- and even area-specific – and do not just occur between languages as previously thought.
“Understanding what consumers expect from a creamy product and what expectations are raised when thinking of creaminess could help assuring that they are fulfilled, increasing the chances of market success of new products that are advertised as creamy,” said the researchers, led by Gabriela Antmann from the Universidad de la República (UdelaR) in Uruguay.
They said that the results of their work contribute to knowledge of consumers' perceptions and expectations regarding creaminess, which may help to better understand and predict the likelihood of success or failure of different creamy products.
“A better understanding of creaminess can be useful for product development, ensuring that areas relevant for consumers are targeted and identifying the cues that they associate with a better liking of creamy products,” said the researchers.
Antmann and colleagues said that ‘creaminess’ is a complex sensory attribute, that is critical for consumer acceptance of many food products, and noted that it is often considered an indicator of high- and premium-quality products.
They added that although consumers generally use the term to describe the flavour, textural, and hedonic characteristics of food products, they often fail to distinguish between them.
“Although creaminess may be a familiar term to most consumers, its bases are complex,” said the researchers.
It is therefore important, they argued, to understand how consumers perceive creaminess, and what they expect from a creamy product.
“If consumers confirm the sensory characteristics they expected, they will likely repeat product consumption ... However, if the expected sensory characteristics are not perceived, consumers will be disappointed and will probably not purchase the product again,” said Antmann and co-workers.
Previous research has shown that consumers' attitudes toward texture depend on their social and cultural context. However, the authors said that no studies have investigated the perceptions of creaminess in Spanish-speaking consumers' perception.
They said that the high number of consumers who have Spanish as a first language makes the understanding of complex sensory terms, such as creaminess, in that language necessary.
The new study aimed to investigate how consumers in Spain and Uruguay – two Spanish-speaking countries with different consumption habits – understand the term ‘creaminess.’
To address this, the researchers used a word association task. Participants were asked to write down the first four words, descriptions, associations, thoughts or feelings that came to their minds when thinking of creaminess.
Antmann and co- workers reported that differences were found between results from Spanish and Uruguayan consumers, indicating that, even within the same language, cultural differences in consumers' understanding of the term creaminess exist.
They concluded that the associations of Spanish and Uruguayan consumers were mostly related to creamy food products, texture, flavour, and appearance attribute. They said that consumers' perception of creaminess “seemed to be prompted by tactile sensations, specific flavour and appearance attributes, as well as pleasantness.”
The authors noted that such information should also be taken into account when sensory panels are being trained, since the term creaminess must be precisely defined in order to prevent different panellists interpreting the term in different ways.
This indicates that care must be taken when using the word ‘creamy’ to describe a food product to ensure that it really has the sensory properties that consumers expect.
Source: Journal of Sensory Studies
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1745-459X.2010.00319.x
“Exploring and explaining creaminess perception: Consumers underlying concepts”
Authors: G. Antmann, G. Ares, A. Salvador, P. Varela, S. Fiszman