Consumers flag some foods as ‘too sweet’

sweet foods

Some scientists believe that making some foods sweeter will attract more people to eat them.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Do you have a sweet tooth? Chances are that the food you eat satisfies your tongue only – scientists reveal that such foods are neither tasty, or healthy.

This new study published in the scientific journal Food was conducted by taste experts from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

You may be wondering why the researchers decided to investigate this and how they did it.

Generally, some people struggle to eat healthy foods. In an attempt to entice healthier eating, some scientists believe that making such foods sweeter will attract more people to eat them. To put this into context, imagine broccoli, but one that is sweetened. Would you eat it?

The researchers, using sophisticated online tools, investigated reviews from food products that consumers pointed out were ‘too sweet.’ They analysed more than half a million reviews found online from about 31,000 food products.

“The tension between taste and health is a constant challenge for the modern food industry and the consumers. Here, we show that some “extra-sweet” products are an overshoot for some consumers, resulting in a misfit, both in terms of hedonics and in nutritional parameters,” said the researchers.

The study indicates that food companies wish to reach the optimal sweetness to make their products even more palatable. However, consumers seem to flag some products such as cookies and sparkling juices as having an exaggerated kind of sweetness.

“Considering that consumers who perceive products as oversweet award them with lower scores and that phrases relating to products not being sweet enough were rare, we recommend paying special attention to the potential of providing lower sweetness-level versions of some products,” they added.

The lead researcher of the study, Prof Masha Niv, in a press statement said it was surprising that from the reviews they analysed online, most people did not give a thumbs up for sweeter food, which was found to have lower scores.

“Despite popular opinion, it is not the case for everyone that sweeter means tastier. There is an opportunity here to diversify the levels of sweetness in products and to create healthier versions that are more closely tailored to the preferences of certain customer groups,” said Prof Niv.

Her co-author, Ms Kim Asseo noted that food companies, especially those that make sweet foods such as candies, snacks and soft drinks, need to also come up with food that is not inviting for those with a sweet tooth.

“This is important not just for public health reasons (supplying those who prefer it with food that is less sweet and is healthier), but also for the food companies themselves, so that they can boast a healthier product line and sell these healthier products to customers who actually find them tastier,” said Ms Asseo. 

“While we focused on taste only, other parameters influence sweetness perception, such as odours, degree of processing, texture, and visual perception. Future research can integrate these parameters to better understand their influence,” recommended the researchers.