Cornell University Reveals Taste Sensitivity Is The Next Frontier For Wine Brands

Brand new research from Cornell University has revealed the key role that tastesensitivity plays in consumer choices by studying the behaviour of supertasters compared with those with less taste sensitivity.

Supertasters Versus Normal Tasters​

Broadly speaking, sensory research has divided the population into so-called “supertasters” who are more sensitive to bitter flavoursnormal tasters who don’t have this raised sensitivity, and “non-tasters” who are unable to taste bitterness. In February a team of researchers at Cornell conducted a study to see how this sensitivity plays into consumer choices. According to Cornell, “Supertasters are more sensitive to bitterness, seek sweeter foods, and exhibit more behavioral loyalty than other consumers, which makes them an important segment for food marketers involved in testing and introducing new products.”

Social Pressures

Although supertasters have a higher sensitivity to bitterness, the Cornell researchers found that social pressures have a strong influence over consumer choices. When it comes to buying wine supertasters may prefer sweeter wines, but they will often purchase tannic wines as they perceive these wines as higher quality.

According to LaTour and Gomez, the descriptor “sweet” has negative connotations for these consumers while “dry” has positive connotations. The key takeaway for wine marketers and brands is that although more sensitive tasters might like the flavour profile of softer, sweeter wines, they tend to buy wines which are seen as more sophisticated thanks to their bolder, more structured profile.

Labelling Implications

These findings are significant for the way wine brands and producers label their products as well. The researchers also studied coffee consumption and discovered that listing sensory descriptions on the label can make it more likely for supertasters to purchase bitter coffee even though they have a taste preference for softer, richer blends. The researchers concluded that the use of language to emphasise the “sweetness or mellowness” of a product can attract more sensitive tasters to purchase it.

Another useful strategy is to take into consideration consumers’ preferences in other food categories. For example, including pairing suggestions on the label can help consumers decide if they’ll like the wine based on which dishes they prefer. This approach can also work for consumers who are less confident in pairing wine with food as brands can include descriptors like “dark chocolate” or “coffee” to make it easy for consumers to relate how the wine will taste to flavours they already know and love.

Since supertasters represent a quarter of the global population and taking taste sensitivity into account can be very useful for wine brands looking to grow their consumer base and gain a loyal following. Be bold with taste descriptors and experiment with pairing recommendations to entice new customers to try and fall in love with your products.

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