Women are better tasters than men23rd June, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt
It’s official: women are naturally better tasters than men according to Dr Deborah Parker, beer sommelier and associate director at UK sensory research specialists Marketing Sciences.
Speaking to the drinks business last week at the company’s Sensory Science Testing and Research Centre in Kent, Parker said that the firm’s team of sensory panellists were all women.
The people chosen to assess food and drink products at Marketing Sciences are selected after an initial test, which sees whether they can differentiate between five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.
Parker recorded, “Only 10%-15% of the population have the sensory acuity to be a sensory taste panellist… and when we give consumers a sensory test, women always do better.”
However, she added that after both sexes have been through Marketing Sciences sensory training programme, “men and women perform the same”.
When asked why women might have a superior natural ability to differentiate between the basic tastes, Parker suggested it could be connected to mothering.
“Women are better discriminators, and that’s perhaps because mothers are always smelling and testing things before giving them to their children, they have an inherent ability to screen food and drink,” she said.
Nevertheless, she stressed that when it comes to the work at Marketing Sciences, it was the “training that is key, rather than the gender of the panellists.”
Interestingly, in a different exercise at the research centre, it was shown that artificial sweeteners are more bitter than the natural sucrose they are designed to replicate.
After a blind tasting of different sweetened waters, it was apparent that the liquid containing natural sugar had more sweetness and depth than the one containing Aspartame, Stevia or Saccharin, which appeared to have a thinner and more bitter character.
Furthermore, Stevia, which is natural sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the Stevia plant, had the most “artificial” taste, with a character like marshmallow or cream soda.
Commenting on this finding, Parker said, “Stevia is seen as more favourable because it is from natural sources, but our panellists say it tastes the most artificial.”
For the future, Parker said that Marketing Sciences was developing the neuroscientific element of sensory analysis to assess which flavours bring “an emotional response”.
“Neuroscience is used in advertising to see how people react to visual images, but now we are using it to look at how people react to food and drink.”
Considering drinks trends, Marketing Sciences director Laura Ablett told db that the company was seeing more blended drinks.
Taking an example from fruit juices in particular, she said that companies are launching “dual mixes”, with names such as “fusions”, which tend to combine well-known fruits with others, such as acai, or goji, which are becoming famous for their health benefits, but few consumers know what they taste like.
Such an approach has been traditionally employed by the wine industry when encouraging consumers to try lesser-known or native grapes by selling them blended with international varieties.
Ablett also recorded the proliferation of fruit ciders which, she said, are becoming more like flavoured alcoholic beverages (FABs) from 10 years ago, “when they were so fruity you almost couldn’t tell that they contained alcohol.”
Looking ahead, she forecasted an increased emphasis on beers for women. “Female beers are the next big thing – beers that are more subtle in flavour, and which are seen to be more suitable for ladies.”