Science & Nutrition
Dispatches from IFT 2014

Taste genetics: A new way to look at policy and segment consumers?

11-Jul-2014
Last updated the 11-Jul-2014 at 16:53 GMT - By Nathan Gray+
Taste genetics: A new way to look at policy and segment consumers?
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Can new research in to the genetic basis of taste could help manufacturers and policy makers better understand consumer choices, purchase behaviour and even the later risk of obesity and disease.

"We know that individuals have very large differences between them in how they perceive tastes of foods," said Dr Beverly Tepper of Rutgers University.

While this idea of differences in consumer liking may be quite old, the science of linking these differences to our genetics, and also to food preferences and purchase behaviours is much newer, according to Dr John Hayes of Penn State University.

"With the human genome project, and the molecular revolution we now have, we have a whole new window in to why those taste preferences exist."

By looking at genetic markers as a predictor of general food preferences and eating habits, Tepper and her colleagues have begun to investigate how these differences impact food choice and the risk of obesity.

"Now we have a relatively good marker to tell us that type of information," she said.

By using these genetic markers, it may be possible to tell who is set up for a preference for unhealthy foods, while there may even be potential to develop new strategies to change the eating habits of people who have certain genetic traits that mean they prefer the taste of high-fat or high-sugar foods, said Tepper.

Market segmentation possibility

"We have moved from this market where we produce one size fits all for everyone, to instead coming up with niche products to satisfy more consumers and give them more value and more pleasure," said Hayes.

"What we are trying to do now is to use genetics to understand underlying common basis across products that could actually drive that segmentation."

Related topics: Science & Nutrition, Flavours and colours