A considerable effort is placed on developing food products for food-insecure environments. Vitamin A deficiency is a problem that is plaguing the nutrition security of many consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nutrition security requires the intake of a wide range of foods which provides all the essential needed nutrients. Vitamin A is essential for immune function, eye and vision health and skeletal growth. To address this problem bread that is high in β-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) was developed by partially replacing part of the wheat flour and water in a standard formulation with orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) puree. In this dissertation, the term OFSP bread will be used to refer to this wheat and OFSP composite bread. Many new food products such as this one fail in the market. One of the reasons why new food products fail is due to consumers’ fear of the novelty e.g. sensory properties that are different to what the consumers are used to. Food neophobia is the term that is used to describe “the reluctance to eat or the avoidance of unfamiliar foods” (Pliner and Hobden, 1992). Understanding consumers’ food neophobic attitudes can assist in the development of products that meet the consumers’ needs. Food neophobia is generally measured using the Food Neophobia Scale (FNS) developed by Pliner and Hobden (1992). In this study, sensory properties of the OFSP bread had to be determined. In addition, the effect of food neophobia on consumer acceptance of the OFSP bread
This study investigated whether research participants’ food neophobia scores could serve as a predictor for (1) the likelihood of choosing unfamiliar foods and (2) expected liking of the sensory properties of unfamiliar products including OFSP bread. The project consisted of two phases. Phase 1: an online survey to determine the effect of food neophobia (measured with an adapted FNS) on participants’ consisting of liking/expected liking of a selection of familiar and unfamiliar foods and the likelihood of choosing the options. Phase 2: This phase consisted of physico (L *, a * and b * colour values, instrumental texture and image analysis) and descriptive sensory (with trained sensory panel) characterisation of the different bread types. In addition consumer evaluation of standard familiar wheat bread and the bread containing the unfamiliar ingredient (OFSP) was conducted.
As expected, the food neophobic score of participants did affect whether they expected to like or dislike and were likely to choose and unfamiliar food item. The results showed that individuals with higher food neophobia scores were expected to dislike and were more reluctant to choose unfamiliar food items than low neophobic individuals. The food neophobia score of participants can therefore serve as a predictor of their willingness to try unfamiliar foods. However, contrary to expectations consumers with high food neophobia did not rate the liking of the sensory properties of the unfamiliar OFSP bread lower than consumers with low food neophobia scores.
Food neophobia did not play a significant role in whether the OFSP bread was liked or disliked. The finding can be explained as follows: the sensory properties of the OFSP bread, except for the colour, were as acceptable as the wheat bread to the consumers that participated in the research probably because the OFSP bread had very similar sensory properties to the wheat bread.
This research concludes that food neophobia is indeed a reliable predictor of the potential of consumers to accept novel food products. However, the extent of the novelty of the sensory properties of a new product is an important factor in the neophobic effect. The OFSP bread can be introduced into the market with a low risk of rejection of the sensory properties even by individuals with high food neophobia tendencies. Regular consumption of OFSP bread has the potential to reduce vitamin A deficiency among affected individuals and communities. Further research is required to determine if food neophobic individuals will choose a labelled and branded OFSP bread option within a real market situation where novel and familiar wheat bread options are offered side by side. More research on other food product options to address vitamin A deficiency using OFSP or other applications.
Dissertation (MSc (Food Science))--University of Pretoria, 2022.