Consumer Preference—Taste and Health

During this year’s Institute of Food Technologists Expo, Virginia Dare presented the results of its latest study tracking the US public’s preferences for regional American cuisines and flavors. The study encompassed 319 respondents from 23 US states ranging in age from 16 to 80 years—females and males comprised 64% and 36% of the sampling, respectively. The survey showed that US consumers are exposed to new flavors and cuisines via blogs, food and recipe Web sites, food magazines, and experimental chefs. Among regional cuisines, survey respondents most preferred Southwestern/Tex-Mex/Mexican (40.8%), BBQ (37.6%) and traditional American (31.0%) (participants were allowed to self-define these categories). Of unfamiliar flavors, respondents said that they would most like to try French Canadian, Native American/American Indian and soul food cuisines. Of course flavor is just one food aspect of concern to US consumers. Among food and nutrition concerns most cited by respondents were food freshness, cancer risk reduction, food safety, pesticides/herbicides, cardiovascular health, mercury in foods, women’s health, weight loss/obesity, cholesterol reduction, energy and digestive health. When it comes to nutritional ingredients for foods and beverages, survey participants cited fiber, whole grains, antioxidants, vitamins and natural ingredients among top concerns. Finally, respondents made clear what the flavor industry already knows: taste is king. Among top desires for new product attributes, good taste is in the lead, followed by good nutrition and food safety assurance. The message is clear: US consumers want tasty, nutritive, safe foods and beverages. The top flavors cited by survey participants? No surprises here: chocolate, vanilla, caramel, strawberry, lemon, cinnamon, raspberry, apple, coffee and banana.
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