Taking the biscuit: Consumers more sensitive to sugar reductions than fat

By Nicola Cottam

- Last updated on GMT

Fat perception is more complex than sweetness, say researchers
Fat perception is more complex than sweetness, say researchers

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Food manufacturers could reduce the fat content of biscuits by up to 50% without impacting overall product acceptability, according to new research.

Published in the journal Food Quality and Preference, ​findings showed that while the impact on perception of lowering fat content in biscuits by half was negligible, consumers were much more sensitive to sugar reductions. 

“Multiple factors are linked to consumer perceptions of sweetness and fat in biscuits. Sweetness is mainly due to the sugar content, but it also depends on the fat content and moisture.

“However, fat perception is more complex than sweetness. It depends on the fat content, the sugar content, texture, moisture, flavor, the nature of the food (liquid or solid) and mouthfeel,” ​the researchers wrote. 

Reduced sugar was found to have no effect on fat perception, whereas fat reduction sometimes provoked a decrease of sweetness response by the participants.

Low tolerance to reduced sugar

Researchers involved in the French study observed that fat-reduced biscuits were ‘less liked’ than standard biscuits, but this was only significant for the higher level of fat reduction.

“Reducing the fat content by 25% had no impact on overall product acceptability, which declined only when fat was reduced by 50%. For two of the three products studied, sugar-reduced variants are less liked than standard biscuits for both levels of sugar reduction,” ​the scientists said.

Conversely, sugar reductions of as little as 16-17% had an adverse impact on overall ‘liking’ and were considered to be significantly 'less sweet' than the original recipes. ​Reduced fat variants were perceived to be ‘less sweet’ and there was no discernible effect on crispiness.

Reduced variants ‘less liked’

The study analyzed consumer perception of 18 variants of four commercial biscuits manufactured with different levels of sugar and fat content - compared to the original recipes. Each biscuit was produced on the same day using the same baking conditions to minimize differences in quality between samples.

The one-hour testing sessions took place once a week, for six weeks - at 10:30 am, 3pm or 5:30 pm - with each of the 79 participants returning at the same time of the day each week to avoid individual variability.

Consumers were asked to rate the biscuits according to their ‘fat perception’, sweetness, crispiness and ‘liking’.

Overall, the ‘less liked’ variants were those perceived as ‘less sweet’, while those perceived as just ‘less fatty’ were ‘not significantly disliked’.

“Reduced variants were less liked than standard biscuits, and for a similar level of reduction, sugar-reduced biscuits were more disliked than fat-reduced biscuits​,” they said.


Source: Food Quality and Preference
‘The impact of sugar and fat reduction on perception and liking of biscuits’
Authors: C. Biguzzi, P. Schlich and Christine Lange 

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