Consumers' heterogeneity towards salt reduction: Insights from a case study with white rice.

Affiliation

Sensometrics & Consumer Science, Instituto Polo Tecnológico de Pando, Facultad de Química, Universidad de la República, By Pass de Rutas 8 y 101 s/n, CP 91000 Pando, Canelones, Uruguay. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

In the current context of increasing worldwide concern about the prevalence of health problems related to high sodium intake, reducing the sodium content of food products has been identified as a cost-effective strategy to improve public health. The present work was aimed to assess the effect of salt reduction on consumers' perception, using white rice as case study. Particular emphasis was put on exploring individual differences in consumers' reaction towards salt reduction. A preliminary study, using a trained panel, was conducted to determine the difference threshold for salt in rice. The consumer study involved 156 consumers and encompassed three parts. First, consumers were presented with a 150 g portion of cooked rice prepared without added salt and were asked to indicate how much salt they would add to it (without tasting). Then, they were presented with six white rice samples differing in their salt content and were asked to indicate their overall liking using a 9-point hedonic scale, to asses adequacy of saltiness intensity using a 5-point just-about-right scale, and to indicate whether they would add salt to the rice. Finally, consumers completed a short survey about their salt consumption habits, interest in health and socio-demographic profile. As expected, results revealed large heterogeneity in consumers' hedonic reaction towards salt reduction: two consumer segments with different hedonic reaction were identified. Both consumer segments also differed in their hedonic sensitivity and tolerance to salt reduction in rice. Significant differences between consumer segments were found in their salt consumption habits, in particular related to salt addition to food, and also in their interest in reducing salt intake. These results suggest that eating habits might play a major role in shaping our preferences, highlighting the potential of gradual salt reduction as a strategy for reducing sodium intake.

Keywords

Consumer research,Consumer segmentation,Hedonic perception,Salt-consumption habits,Salt-reduction,