The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into European organic consumers’ attitudes towards natural food and in their sensory preference for it. It explores whether there is any evidence for a latent dimension that represents consumers’ attitudes towards naturalness and which aspects can be assigned to this dimension. However, the main scope is to investigate whether attitudes towards naturalness are able to predict the liking of natural food.
Sensory tests of strawberry yoghurt are combined with consumer information obtained by means of a standardised questionnaire. About 1,800 organic consumers from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland were asked to blindly test two strawberry yoghurt samples that differed only in their absence/presence of an aroma additive.
On average, the consumers revealed a positive attitude towards natural food, but a negative sensory preference for the more natural yoghurt sample. Correlations between these two variables indicate that for most countries one cannot conclude that more naturalness-oriented consumers actually prefer the taste of more naturally flavoured yoghurts. This finding is interpreted as an attitude-liking gap.
More research is necessary in order to clarify the reasons for the attitude-liking gap, since the authors can only speculate about these. Also, suitable data are needed to confirm the assumption made here that the naturalness of strawberry yoghurt can be determined by the degree of flavour intensity, especially against the background that the sensory skills of consumers are usually weak.
No attempt has been undertaken so far to test the claim that natural food products taste better and whether consumers with a positive attitude towards naturalness actually prefer the taste of a natural product over the taste of a more processed one. The present study attempts to fill this gap by exploring the preference for naturalness in a cross-national context.
Funding: this work was supported by the Commission of the European Community in the 7th Framework Programme (Grant Number 218477-2).
The authors would like to thank all project research partners that participated in this paper as well as the experts of the SME association, which supported the work.
Hemmerling, S., Canavari, M. and Spiller, A. (2016), "Preference for naturalness of European organic consumers: First evidence of an attitude-liking gap", British Food Journal, Vol. 118 No. 9, pp. 2287-2307. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-11-2015-0457Download as .RIS
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