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SENSORY STUDIES WITH CHILDREN:


NEEDS; METHODS AND RECENT GERMAN RESULTS*
LES TESTS SENSORIELS AUPRS DES ENFANTS
BESOINS, MTHODES ET RSULTATS RCENTS DU MARCH
ALLEMAND
Robert Christian Haller
Rsum
La consommation alimentaire des nouveaux ns est rgule la fois par le besoin de
manger et le plaisir. Le contrle de ce mcanisme vital est inn. Plus tard, aprs le
sevrage, le choix de lalimentation et les comportements envers celle-ci sont influencs
par les phnomnes sociaux culturels. Ds deux ans, lorsquils se trouvent confronts
des aliments encore inconnus, les enfants sont dj partags entre sentiments de
curiosit et de rejet. Peu de temps aprs, ils commencent dcouvrir et mmoriser les
marques et les images. Les expriences ngatives effectues avec certains aliments
peuvent alors influencer le comportement alimentaire de toute une vie.
De rcentes tudes conduites en Allemagne par le laboratoire danalyse sensoriel
ASAP, ont dmontr que pour les enfants, la qualit sensorielle des produits
alimentaires est plus importante que la marque ou limage vhicule par celle-ci. En
effet les enfants, et en particulier les plus jeunes, associent leur marque prfre au
produit qui a le meilleur got. Par allieurs, dautres rsultats ont dmontr que les
enfants entre 5 et 13 ans sont tout fait capables dexprimer dune part leurs
prfrences et non prfrences sensorielles, dautre part de hirarchiser ces
prfrences par le biais de diffrentes techniques de mesures.
Abstract
Food intake of newborn babies is regulated by hunger and satisfaction. The necessary
control mechanism is inborn. At the latest after stopping nursing a social-cultural
process starts to influence human food choice and intake behaviors. Already with 2
years children are split between feelings of curiosity or rejection when confronted with
unknown food products. Nearly simultaneous children start to discover and memorize
brands and images. Especially negative experiences with food products may rest and
influence the eating behavior a life long. Recent German reports show that for kids the
sensory quality of a food product is more important than its brand or image.
Particularly young kids choose their favorite brand only as long as there is not another
one tasting better. Recent studies done at the ASAP sensory lab proved that children
between 5 and 13 years are able to express their likes or dislikes of food products and
to distinguish accurate between their sensory preferences when exposed to different
scaling methods.
* Paper published within the AGORAL Congress Summary Edition,
University of Dijon, FRANCE, 1996.
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Inborn Preferences
Measuring sensory preferences with babies are limited by their lack of verbal
expression. One solution is the interpretation of the facial reactions after stimulating the
taste buds with different substances. The preference for sweet and the aversion for bitter
are supposed to be inborn. Sweet tastes are linked to a save and quick absorption of
energy, while bitter tastes are a danger signal for rotten or toxic food products. Tests on
baby pulps are mostly done by asking the mother to rate the reaction after feeding the
baby over a certain time of days. Besides the amount of consumption the overall well-
being of the baby is recorded in a diary.
Fear and mere-exposure effect
Small children start to have an order of preference for food products with about 2 years.
Especially the kids between 2 and 4 years prefer known products towards unknown.
Often strange tastes like exotic fruits or unknown vegetables are totally rejected, while
the rest of the family is consuming the product. Preferences have to be learned. The
more often the children consume a certain food product, the more raises its acceptance.
The connection between the sympathy of a food product and the frequency of
consumption is named the mere-exposure-effect. Therefore stopping to present a
product because the child refused it at the first or second time may unintentional limit
its possible sensory experiences. A scientific discovery which consequently asks in
sensory and market research for more duration experiments instead of the present
common single try tests.
Learning through experience and influence by social contacts
Children under 4 years do not distinguish between unhealthy, risky or wrong food
consumption. Disgust and to avoid dangerous food has to be learned. The situations in
which food is consumed are hereby decisive. Children accept new products more easily
when presented by familiar persons, like the mother. The influence is even greater when
the person eats the product at the same time. Kids between 7 to 9 years consume a
distinct larger variety of food products than 13 to 15 year old. Food used as a means of
reward increases the acceptance. On the other hand does the combination of eating a
disliked food product with a liked activity lead to a negative preference. Children are
much more influenced in their preferences by other children, especially the same age
like sisters or brothers, than by parents or other adult educators. Food products eaten by
adults raise childrens acceptance but not their preference. On the other hand does social
pressure in the group easy change kids food preferences. Logically questioning the
parents or other adults may lead to false conclusions in market research.
Kids: A dominating factor in the food market
Never have kids been so independent as today. In 1996 German the 9,6 million kids
between 6 and 17 years had a buying power from about 17 billions DM at their
personnel disposal (according to the KVA = Kids Verbraucher Analyse). A study done
by the IJF (Institut fr Jugendforschung, Munich) showed that in the food market kids
had 1993 in 39% (1988: only 29%) of the recorded product fields a very precise favor
for a certain brand. The kids between 7 and 9 years consumed a much wider selection of
food product than the 13 to 15 year old. Pasta was the most preferred product, followed
by chocolate, salty stuff to nibble and ketchup. Porridge oats and frozen fish were at the
end of the hit list. Fruit juices were still expressed before cola-drinks. In comparison
brands had a very dominate position by chocolate/nut creams, cola-drinks or cornflakes,
while the preferred pasta was not yet linked to a certain brand. Kids have an enormous
influence on the shopping decisions of their parents. US studies say that the influence in
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businesses like electronics, clothing or free-time activities is between 5% to 20%, while
in the food market 80% of the decisions are direct or indirect influenced by the kids.
Sensory and consumer studies with children
Based on this knowledge ASAP and the Ehapa Verlag (part of the Danish Gutenberg
Huus-Company, publishing magazines like Micky Mouse or Asterix and Obelix)
decided 1994 to do a very profound study, following three main questions:
1. Do children really have favorite brands in the food market?
2. What and/or who influences their decision for a favorite brand?
3. Which role in the decision process play sensory (intrinsic) product factors?
To answer the first question quantitative methods of market research where used. The
IJF institute made in Germany face to face interviews with a representative sample of
524 children between 7 and 15 years old. The children were asked to name their
favorite brands in 34 different product groups of the food market. The interview was
unsupported, the children had to name the brand out of their memory.
The children named more than 700 different favorite brands. A giant figure which led
to the conclusion that children know much more brands in the food market than in any
other consumer field. Interesting was, that the children had only in 5 out of the 34
product fields more than one favorite brand. Also was a big difference found between
different product fields. In some fields the children knew a lot of brands, in some only
very a few.
Per cent
Food-Study Favourite Brands (Age 7-15 years)
FRUIT-YOGHURTS
Reference: IJF (Sample Size = 524 / Age: 7 - 15 years)
- unsupported answers of favourite brands -
Gervais-Danone
Ehrmann
Zott
Bauer
Mller
Sdmilch
Nestl
Tuffi
Onken
Milram
0 10 20 30 40 50
Gervais-Danone
Ehrmann
Zott
Bauer
Mller
Sdmilch
Nestl
Tuffi
Onken
Milram
Different brands total: 26
False naming: 1
No naming: 42
Favourite brands per child: 1,5
48
13
13
12
11
8
2
2
2
2
Reference: EHAPA Verlags GmbH (1994), page 16.
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Mars
Milka / Lila Pause
Ferrero
Duplo
Snickers
Twix
KInder-Schokol.
Bounty
Milky Way
Hanuta
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
Mars
Milka / Lila Pause
Ferrero
Duplo
Snickers
Twix
KInder-Schokol.
Bounty
Milky Way
Hanuta
Different brands total: 30
False naming: 0
No naming: 21
Favourite brands per child: 1,8
28
28
16
12
12
12
11
9
8
3
Per cent
Food-Study Favourite Brands (Age 7-15 years)
CHOCOLATE-BARS
Reference: IJF (Sample Size = 524 / Age: 7 - 15 years)
- unsupported answers of favourite brands -
Per cent
Food-Study Favourite Brands (Age 7-15 years)
KETCHUP
Reference: IJF (Sample Size = 524 / Age: 7 - 15 years)
- unsupported answers of favourite brands-
Heinz
Kraft
Thomy
Livio
Rewe
A & P
Aldi
Delicado
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
Heinz
Kraft
Thomy
Livio
Rewe
A & P
Aldi
Delicado
Different brands total: 14
False naming: 0
No naming: 48
Favourite brands per child: 1,2
34
28
19
16
2
1
1
1
Reference: EHAPA Verlags GmbH (1994), page 20,22.
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In comparison to the non-food-sector where favorite brands correspond with high
prestige, children seem to use food brands more as a tool of understanding or trust.
Prestige is only secondary, e.g. only Coca-Cola made it yet to use its name as accepted
commercial on T-shirts.
What are than the main factors for children to prefer a certain brand in the food market?
In a second part of the study ASAP sent 114 children between 8 and 13 years (50%
girls; 50% boys) shopping in the store they usually buy food products. The kids got a
list of 17 product groups (e.g. a fruit juice, a yoghurt...) and 100 DM and had to shop
one product out of each group on the list. Immediately after shopping, the kids had to
bring all products to the ASAP lab. Here an interviewer examined for product after
product the exactly reasons why this product had been chosen. After the child had
answered in own words, some structured questions where asked on general buying
habits.
A first result was, that in average 70% of the children had decided to buy their favorite
brand and succeeded doing this, while 7% percent made the same decision, but couldnt
find their favorite brand in the shop. Only 15 percent had no favorite brand in this
product group and 8 percent of the children decided to try another brand this time.
Reference: EHAPA Verlags GmbH (1994), page 30.
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Two out of three kids had the impression not to be influenced by other persons in their
preference choice, 22% thought their parents and 9 percent their friends had influenced
them. Furthermore 80% answered that advertisement or commercials did not influence
them. Also this results were just the impressions of the children, it is very important to
know how children feel, especially that they think to be free in their decisions as
customers also the mechanisms in our society and economy are different from this
feelings.
The main justification to the question: Why did you buy this product? was for nearly
every product: Because I like the taste of this product!. Most of the children added a
description of the special taste of the product to the interviewer.
Because it tastes good and like real fruits
Because I saw good and funny advertising
Because there are original pieces of fruits in it
Because it is so creamy and feels good in my mouth
Because of the nice colour of the product
Because the packaging is nice (fruits on it)
Because there are a lot different types of flavors
Because its just the right amount of product
Because it's healthy (vitamines and no preservatives)
Because of enviromental protection, less packaging
Fruit yoghurts and fruit desserts
>50% of the kids >25% of the kids less than 25% of the kids
Reference: EHAPA Verlags GmbH (1994), page 37.
In consequence the most exiting question was, what would happen with the personal
chosen favorite brand if evaluated in its sensory quality in a blind test. Therefore the
children were again invited to the ASAP lab some days later and were presented their
favorite product together with two other products out of the same product field. The
kids were asked to rate taste, mouthfeel and aftertaste of the products in a blind test on a
hedonic scale and to name if the product is their favorite brand or not. This was done for
15 out of the 34 product groups. To avoid that the children detect their preferred
products simply by appearance, the tests were done in almost total dark booths. This
excluded also the effect, that children concentrate in their judgments to a high degree on
appearance.
In 12 of the 15 product groups the kids distinguished significantly in their hedonic
judgment between the products. 36% detected their original favorite
product again, but also 35% discovered a new favorite.
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0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Mini-Dickmanns
Super Dickmanns
Wolf Topfku
M+Ms (braun)
Ferrero Kchen
Alpia Alpinos
Weihenstephaner Butter
Kerrygold Butter
Rama Margarine
Wrigleys Big Red
Wrigleys Orbit Pepperm.
Wrigleys Juicy Fruit
Kptn Iglo Fischstbchen
Die Weissen Fischstbchen
Iglo Schlemmerfilet Estragon
Capri-Sonne Orange
Capri-Sonne Safari-Frchte
Sunkist Orange
Milka Alpenmilch
Milka Joghurt
Milka Weie Crisp
Butter-Leibniz
Bahlsen ABC Russich Brot
Brandt Kaffee-Gebck
Kelloggs Frosties
Kelloggs Schoko Pops
Kelloggs Corn Pops
Hanuta
Milchschnitte
Knoppers
Nesquik
Milka Drink
Kaba
Prinzenrolle
Schoko-Leibniz (Vollmilch)
De Beukelaer Dinos
Sprite
Fanta
Fanta light
Milky Way Schoko
Nutella
Nusspli
Heinz Ketchup
Kraft Ketchup
Livio Ketchup
in %
Favourite Brands confirmed in the sensory blind-test
n = 114 (Age: 8 - 13 years)
Reference: EHAPA Verlags GmbH (1994), page 44.
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0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Mini-Dickmanns
Super Dickmanns
Wolf Topfku
M+Ms (braun)
Ferrero Kchen
Alpia Alpinos
Weihenstephaner Butter
Kerrygold Butter
Rama Margarine
Wrigleys Big Red
Wrigleys Orbit Pepperm.
Wrigleys Juicy Fruit
Kptn Iglo Fischstbchen
Die Weissen Fischstbchen
Iglo Schlemmerfilet Estragon
Capri-Sonne Orange
Capri-Sonne Safari-Frchte
Sunkist Orange
Milka Alpenmilch
Milka Joghurt
Milka Weie Crisp
Butter-Leibniz
Bahlsen ABC Russich Brot
Brandt Kaffee-Gebck
Kelloggs Frosties
Kelloggs Schoko Pops
Kelloggs Corn Pops
Hanuta
Milchschnitte
Knoppers
Nesquik
Milka Drink
Kaba
Prinzenrolle
Schoko-Leibniz (Vollmilch)
De Beukelaer Dinos
Sprite
Fanta
Fanta light
Milky Way Schoko
Nutella
Nusspli
Heinz Ketchup
Kraft Ketchup
Livio Ketchup
in %
New Favourite Brands detected in the sensory blind-test
n = 114 (Age: 8 - 13 years)
Reference: EHAPA Verlags GmbH (1994), page 45.
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Children are quite sure to have a favorite brand from which they can tell the name and
which they prefer to buy, when free to choose. But this favorite food product is quick
replaced by another one, if the kids have the chance to test a new one and feel the new
tastes better. These results confirm the special situation of children in the food market
and the importance of the sensory quality of food products.
In the 8 years since the foundation of the ASAP company (an institute specialized on
sensory research) numerous studies with children showed that children express easily
their hedonic judgment on food products when the adequate test designs and question
techniques are used. A recent study on a range of yoghurt drinks discovered the failure
of a me-too product line as a matter of lack in the sensory qualities.
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2,5
3
3,5
4
4,5
5
appearance smell taste
Me-too raspberry competitor raspberry Me-too strawberry
competitor strawberry Me-too banana competitor banana
Reference: Confidential ASAP Study on yoghurt-drinks, June 1995.
N= 100 kids
(Age: 7-10 years)
Sensory Preference-Test on Fruit Yoghurt-Drinkswith kids
5 point scale
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Of course the used scaling methods have to be adapted to the possibilities of the
children, depending on the their age. In a study a student from the University of
Weihenstephan and ASAP tested together various types of scales (3-, 5-, 9-point and
line scales) for sensory testing with children between 5 and 8 years, using different
symbols as anchors. The scales were tested for their strength of discrimination with
different sweet solutions and their ability to distinguish the kids hedonic judgments with
different fruit juices. While all scales discriminated between the sweet solutions, only
the line-scale with two Micky Mouse faces as anchors separated the fruit juices in the
hedonic test. It seems like children understand simplest a scale using a very familiar
character (as the Micky Mouse), which is in its drawn expressions close to human faces
for liking and disliking. For the children a 5-point scale, using 5 different Micky Mouse
faces in gradual expressions was less easy to interpret than the two extreme anchors
with a line in between.
Reference: Coric S. (1996), p. 49. Copyright: Disney Corp..
Main results and consequences for sensory and market research
Children are very interested in all kinds of food products, not only the classic sweet
stuff. They have and express already precise ideas what they like and what they dislike.
Kids are liable to trends, which are formed quicker and quicker today. The kids
influence on the familys purchasing behavior is huge. Children are curious and on a
permanent culinary trip, trying to discover and to try out new sensations, more than in
any other period of life. Especially the group from 10 to 12 years develop first strong
preferences for products and brands. Advertising, promotion and package design are
essential tools to get the kids interest and to introduce through them new products to
other members of the family. Children act as a kind of negative gatekeeper in the
family, because they also reject uncompromisingly any disliked food product. Children
chose their brands because they like the appearance and the taste, meaning the
experiences or the imaginations of the taste they have. But a brand or a label of a food
product is only a sign for intimacy and stays as long a favorite as there is no better taste
detected. Children are very critical and can easily distinguish between the sensory
sensations of different food products.
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References (general)
Beauchamp G.K. and Moran, M.: Dietary Experience and Sweet Taste Preference in
Human Infants. Journal for Intake Research (1982), 3 : 139-152.
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Bernstein I.L. and Webster M.M.: Learned taste aversions in man (1980).
Birch L.L.: Dimensions of preschool childrens food preferences: Journal of Nutrition
Education (1979) : 77-80.
Birch L.L.: The relation between childrens food preferences and those of their
parents. Journal of Nutrition Education (1980) : 14-18.
Birch L.L.: Effects of peer models food choices and eating behaviors on preschoolers
food preferences. Child Development (1980), 51 : 489-496.
Birch L.L. and Marlin D.W.: I dont like it; I never tried it: effects of exposure on two-
year-old childrens food preferences. Appetite: Journal of Intake Research (1982); 3 :
353-360.
Birch L.L.: The acquisition of food acceptance patterns in children. In: R.A. Boakes:
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and taste preferences: Effects of experience. The Journal of General Psychology
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Coric S.: Untersuchung ausgewhlter Skalen auf ihre Eignung fr den Einsatz bei
sensorischen Prfungen mit Kindern. Freie wissenschaftliche Arbeit der Technischen
Universitt Mnchen (kotrophologie), Weihenstephan (1996).
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throughout the life span. Psychological Bulletin (1981), Vol. 90, No. 1 : 43-73.
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Nisbett R.E. and Gurwitz S.B.: Weight, sex and the eating behavior of human
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Pliner P. and Pelchat M.L.: Similarities in food preferences between children and their
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References (especially on the German market for kids)
Schmidbauer, Wolfgang: Weniger ist manchmal mehr - Zur Psychologie des
Konsumverzichts, rororo Sachbuch 1290, 1995.
Ebeling, Andreas: Das Markenbewutsein von Kindern und Jugendlichen Lit-Verlag,
Hamburg 1995.
Charlton, Michael, u.a.: Das Werbeangebot fr Kinder (Band 1), Leske + Budrich,
Opladen 1995.
Charlton, Michael, u.a.: Fernsehwerbung und Kinder - Die Rezeption der
Fernsehwerbung (Band 2); Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1995.
Deutsches Jugendinstitut (Hrsg.): Was fr Kinder - Aufwachsen in Deutschland,
Ksel-Verlag, Mnchen 1995.
Studies
Familien und Mrkte; Axel Springer Verlag / Marketing, Hamburg 1996.
Kids Verbraucher Analyse 1996 (KVA); Bastei, Springer, Bauer; Berg.-Gladbach /
Hamburg.
EHAPA Verlags GmbH: Kids: Die Entdecker im Food-Markt. Studie ber E-
Trink- und Markenprferenzen und wie sie entstehen. Stuttgart (1994).
Jugend und Freizeit - Eine Bestandsaufnahme auf Basis aktueller Analysen; Prof. Dr.
Horst Opaschowski & Christian Duncker; BAT, Hamburg 1996.
Kinder, Mrkte, Medien; Gruner + Jahr, Hamburg 1993.
Bravo Jugend-Marktreport: Die Jugend als Verbraucher; IP Multimedia Deutschland,
Kronberg 1995
Youth observes youth obsession (Yoyo); Lintas, Frankfurt 1994.