What are consumer attitudes to fortification? Consumers often care about taste over health, study reveals

The study, which was conducted as part of a multi-disciplinary project with BIC Innovation, was published in the journal Appetite ​and assessed consumer attitudes to fortified products. The study used 25 participants, between the ages of 22 and 76, and consisted of a two staged process – firstly, a ‘blind’ taste test together with a discussion on health and taste, and secondly, another discussion with more knowledge about the true nature of the products in question.

The benefits of fortification

Fortification, as opposed to supplementation, offers a food-based approach to increasing the density of vital micronutrients and macronutrients within foods. Previous studies have shown that they are often very successful at increasing nutritional intakes of those who consume them, even in comparison with supplementation.

However, studies have also shown that fortification can change a product’s taste and texture and decrease consumer liking. For example, in one study, the use of whey protein and micronutrient-based powders elicited reports from consumers of the presence of ‘off flavours’ and ‘increased dryness.’ This has a substantial affect on consumer willingness to consume – one study found that fortification with vitamin D could lead to low consumer desire to switch to fortified foods.

Discovering fortification

The current study aimed to assess consumer attitudes towards fortification more broadly. Thus, its 25 participants were presented with six fortified foods, which included both savoury and sweet options.

In the first stage, they tried the foods ‘blind’, i.e. without awareness of the study’s aims. They were given the foods and encouraged to discuss both the taste and texture, and their beliefs regarding health, naturalness, sustainability and affordability of foods in general.