Impact of Health Labels on Flavor Perception and Emotional Profiling: A Consumer Study on Cheese
The global increase of cardiovascular diseases is linked to the shift towards unbalanced diets with increasing salt and fat intake. This has led to a growing consumers' interest in more balanced food products, which explains the growing number of health-related claims on food products (e.g., "low in salt" or "light"). Based on a within-subjects design, consumers (n = 129) evaluated the same cheese product with different labels. Participants rated liking, saltiness and fat flavor intensity before and after consuming four labeled cheeses. Even though the cheese products were identical, inclusion of health labels influenced consumer perceptions. Cheese with a "light" label had a lower overall expected and perceived liking compared to regular cheese. Although cheese with a "salt reduced" label had a lower expected liking compared to regular cheese, no lower liking was found when consumers actually consumed the labeled cheese. All labels also influenced the perceived intensities of the attributes related to these labels, e.g., for example salt intensity for reduced salt label. While emotional profiles of the labeled cheeses differed before tasting, little differences were found when actual tasting these cheeses. In conclusion, this study shows that health-related labels might influence the perceived flavor and emotional profiles of cheese products.