Consumers' perception of novel beers: sensory, affective, and cognitive-contextual aspects

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

  • Davide Giacalone
As a result of the impressive resurgence of micro and craft breweries, the product diversity in the Danish beer market has remarkably increased. Craft breweries are traditionally characterized by innovativeness, unique sensory experiences, and a focus on novel beer styles not previously known to many consumers. After a decade of growth, the Danish craft brewing segment is rapidly reaching maturity, and a higher degree of consumer orientation seems to be needed for continuing success. The aim of this PhD project was to investigate some of the key aspects of consumers’ perception of novel beers, and ways in which these can be considered to inform product development decisions.

Sensory insights into how consumers perceive a new beer are paramount. As craft breweries rarely have access to traditional sensory analysis (in the form of a trained panel), the first part of the project has examined the suitability of consumer-oriented descriptive methodologies. Attention has been given in particular to projective mapping and check-all-that-apply questionnaires. The work showed both approaches to be feasible for rapid sensory characterization of beers, and potentially applicable by craft breweries, among other things, to gain a clearer understanding of the sensory outcome of experimental beers, and to enable comparisons with competitive products.

The second part of the project studied how different sensory characteristics of beers translate into patterns of acceptance among consumers. The results highlighted that consumers’ preferences for beers are highly heterogeneous, and segments based on preferences for specific sensory characteristics and beer styles were identified. It was further hypothesized that consumers’ preferences may be jointly determined by the presence of novel sensory elements, and the way these fit with consumer’s previous experiences with beer. Empirical evidence gathered during the work generally supported this hypothesis, indicating that consumers prefer beers with novel flavors that are not perceived as too novel or discontinuous with their sensory expectations.

The last part of the project has investigated relevant cognitive aspects of consumers’ experience with novel beers. Particular attention was given to the issue of appropriateness in specific usagecontexts. In a series of studies, consumers were found to strongly differentiate between different beers based on this aspect, suggesting that consumer’s choices of beers in real-life settings may ultimately depend on the match between product-related characteristics and the requirements of specific situations.

In summary, this PhD project provides interdisciplinary insights applicable to product development in the craft beer industry. More generally, this work makes a number of original contributions to our understanding of determinants of consumers’ perception of novel food and beverages, as well as methodological advances in the use of consumers as subjects in sensory and consumer research.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Food Science, University of Copenhagen
Number of pages269
ISBN (Print)978-87-7611-641-5
Publication statusPublished - 2013

ID: 51418762