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Collaboration will unlock food emotions and offer a new window into the consumer mind

Givaudan announced an agreement with neuroscience company Thimus, the developer of the exclusive TBox platform that provides an integrated collection of explicit and implicit data for exploring how humans experience food. Givaudan’s collaboration with Thimus is the first extensive use of the TBox platform in the world of food, resulting in Givaudan’s new programme, Food Emotions powered by Thimus. The agreement adds to Givaudan’s growing set of digital capabilities designed to deliver unique consumer insights and shape the future of food.

Food products are being redesigned to meet new expectations and sustainability, health, quality and emotion are crucial considerations in this re-invention. Understanding and responding to consumer preferences has never been more important, but there’s often a gap between what consumers say and their actual experience and behaviour. Neuroscience may be the key to closing that gap. A portable tool developed by Thimus is used to gain a fuller understanding of the consumer experience.

In addition to only having consumers participate in a focus group or answer a questionnaire, Thimus’ TBox provides participants with a headset to wear during taste tests.

The headset records brain signals, which are then processed by validated algorithms to measure four key mental states including frontal asymmetry, engagement, cognitive workload and relaxation.

Using proprietary software and a cloud-based database for data analysis and retrieval, the tool is able to deliver insights that were previously unavailable or unreliable.

Givaudan has used the Thimus technology extensively in several customer projects with very successful results. For example, Givaudan used Thimus technology in recent consumer tests on botanical soft drinks, comparing two prototypes. The results revealed that consumers implicitly found one concept significantly more satisfying than the other. The implicit data gathered from Thimus was used to pinpoint a negative reaction during the taste phase in the second product. The team was then able to identify a successful route to optimise the soft drink by improving mouthfeel. In this instance, the problem and its resolution could not have been uncovered by examining declarative data alone.

One of the fastest growing demands relates to better-for-you food and drink products with a natural and balanced level of sweetness. Symrise has done a deep dive into consumption behaviors and focused on revealing the diversity of sensorial preferences. It has conducted studies to guide the development of new taste solutions that meet the latest consumer taste preferences. The resulting solutions balance the taste of a reduced sugar level from cookies to cocktails while keeping a maximum level of indulgence in different ways, for different consumers.

Established and new labelling systems like the UK’s traffic light system or the Nutriscore are helping consumers to navigate their purchase. “The desire for a healthy weight and more natural sweetness in products has led to an increasing number of people looking for sugar-reduced products. These should taste good and, ideally, contain fewer calories,” says Dr. Dariah Lutsch, Sensory & Consumer Insights Research Manager of the Flavor Division at Symrise. “A purchase simulation shows that 75 percent of consumers would choose reduced-sugar versions within nearly all product categories”, adds Lutsch.

This refers to a study on sweet taste perception in Europe, Africa and the Middle East Symrise has recently carried out. It has found that multiple routes exist to reduce the sugar level while at the same time meeting taste preferences.

  • Route #1 – tastes as sweet as the full sugar version and 33 % of respondents prefer it.
  • Route #2 – tastes similar and less sweet and 20 percent of consumers prefer this route.
  • Route #3 – The third group of about 22 % behaves more adventurous. They are looking for a new unique flavor composition and accept a difference in taste compared to the full-sugar version.

Ideal sweetness for soft drinks

With a further study on the ‘Ideal Level of Sweetness’ in 2019 for Cola CSD (carbonated soft drinks) in Germany, Symrise wants to determine the optimal sweetness level with different sugar contents from 106 g/l to 75 g/l sugar. The study re-confirmed the findings and also revealed that consumers perceive a sample with 75 g/l as lacking in sweetness. Knowing that sugar reduction in beverages impacts the overall taste profile and sweet taste dynamics from mouthfeel, Symrise conducted a second study and tried to increase the consumer liking of sugar-reduced products by applying Symrise taste balancing solutions with Symlife®. The team succeeded in dramatically increasing the overall liking of sugar reduced cola versions 85g/l and 75g/l by adding the taste solution of Symrise.

Regardless, which route consumers prefer and which target consumer food manufacturers would like to reach, Symrise supports their customers in reducing calories in a range of beverage products – from ice tea to CSDs – and offers the final taste profile consumers love across all three scenarios.

The beverage sector has undergone a significant transformation over the past decade in line with changing consumer preferences.

Sumit Chopra, Consumer Research Director at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, highlights six major innovation trends that are set to impact the production, marketing and sales of the beverage sector in Asia-Pacific (APAC) in 2019.

Unusual ingredients and featured flavors

GlobalData’s 2018 Q4 Consumer Survey found that 17 % of consumers in APAC often like to experiment with novel ingredients, creating opportunities for manufacturers. For instance, India-based urban lifestyle beverage brand Zago launched Iced Masala Chai, which offers a ‘refreshing’ twist to traditional ready to drink teas infused with traditional aromatic flavors such as cardamom and ginger.

Authentically indulged

According to GlobalData’s 2018 Q4 Consumer Survey, around 40 % of APAC consumers are willing to pay more for better quality beverages. Against this backdrop, beverage manufacturers are aiming to create an authentic brand image to foster consumer trust and loyalty. In Australia, Podpac is offering new coffee pods under the Baileys trademark in order to give coffee drinkers a premium indulgence that is marketed under an alcohol brand name.

Revitalized & balanced

GlobalData’s 2018 Q4 Consumer Survey highlights that 65 % of consumers in APAC are always or often influenced by how a product impacts their health and wellbeing while making their consumption choices. Against this backdrop, beverage companies are mapping out the wellness considerations for the products they are offering to attract a niche market of specialists such as sports enthusiast and athletes, whilst also appealing to the mainstream of active lifestylers. For example, Applelachia launched a sparkling apple cider drinks range that incorporates foreign ingredients like Yuzu, a citrus fruit used as a tonic by samurais to boost their immune system, in Australia.

Packaging formats

GlobalData’s research reveals that APAC consumers prefer small single-serve pack sizes and seek out new products packed in PET and small metal cans, reflecting the overall emerging trend in the region towards on-the-go consumption. For instance, Locally Merci Buco 100 % organic coconut water in a 330 ml tetra pack variant bagged a packaging excellence award for an innovative PET squeezable bottle in 2019 in the Philippines, as it catered to the strong association between energy drinks and on-the-go consumption.

Sugar war raging

Beverage companies need to be ready for the likelihood of stringent regulations, as the governments across the region are exercising more power, particularly around issues such as obesity and consumer welfare. Malaysia’s Ministry of Health is all set to impose a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened beverages from 1 July 2019. Against this backdrop, key beverage brands are reformulating their portfolios. For instance, Malaysia-based Fraser & Neave (F&N) Holdings Bhd is looking to reformulate 70 % of its products to mitigate the sugar tax impact.

Moderation & avoidance

Consumers are increasingly becoming health-conscious and proactively addressing their health issues by curbing alcohol indulgence. Manufacturers are therefore striving towards offering zero alcohol beverages with healthy ingredients. Heineken’s launch of new zero-alcohol beer Heineken 0.0 in Singapore fulfills the growing demand for non-alcoholic alternatives for evolving customers.