Eating Healthy In The New Year?
The value of sensory analysis really comes to the forefront when it comes to healthy eating. Now that the New Year’s resolutions are passed and we are a few months into the New Year, let’s consider one of the most popular health food products out there, kale.
The number of Americans consuming kale is six times greater now than it was just five years ago. If you’re eating kale, chances are it’s organic. Organic food sales are predicted to go north of $50 billion in revenues in 2015. For this reason not only specialized retailers sell organic foods like kale, but also traditional supermarkets and discounters. The number of farms harvesting the leafy green plant more than doubled from 954 in 2007 to 2,500 in 2012, according to Department of Agriculture data, which was first reported on by Businessweek. By comparison, the number of farms harvesting spinach and romaine lettuce in 2012 was 1,594 and 1,537, respectively. Believe it or not, kale now appears on 400% more restaurant menus than it did five years ago, according to USA Today.
When it comes to kale, sensory analysis answers important questions that are critical in the decision making process for supermarkets, restaurants and farmers. For example, what is the most popular kale type with consumers and why? Over 90% of consumers agree that all kale types tend to be a bit bitter in flavor, but Curly Kale is without a doubt the most recognizable and popular kale among consumer testing. Why? It is sold in bunches at most local grocery stores and the most popular choice at restaurant locations. It is usually bright or dark green or purple in color, has tight ruffled leaves and fibrous stalks that can be difficult to chop, but easy to tear if fresh. The majority of all consumers agree that it has a noticeable pungent flavor with peppery and bitter qualities causing them to seek out younger looking leaves for less bitterness. Less popular than Curly Kale, but the de facto number two choice with consumer is Lacinato Kale. Lacinato Kale (also known as Dinosaur) is a kale variety that features dark blue-green leaves with a slightly wrinkled and firm texture. The hearty leaves of Dino Kale are tall and narrow and retain its firm texture even after cooking. It’s number two, because consumers enjoy its slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than Curly Kale. Consumers describe its flavor as deep and earthy, but not so bitter with an almost nutty sweetness. Consumers third most popular choice is Red Russian Kale. Red Russian Kale has level, fringed leaves that resemble large oak or arugula leaves, or the outer leaves of a mature cabbage. Its leaves can have a red to reddish-purple shade to the stems. Tests indicate that it has a great flavor described as sweet and mild with a little bit of pepperiness. Here’s the catch, although it is one of the sweetest kales, consumers find it difficult to remove the stems before cooking. It has incredibly tough and woody fibrous stems that are difficult to chew and swallow, and they can cause more than a few to get an upset stomach.
Before investing in the rapid growth of organic kale or any other organic food product, sensory analysis will help you understand the nuances of these products from the perspective of the consumer. This invaluable information can set the difference between success and failure when it comes to all categories of food products, including organic foods.
This article is free information from Contract Testing Inc., an established leader in sensory product research and consumer product research for the food, beverage, and (QSR) quick service restaurant industries throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more about the complete scope of product research services, please call 1-905-456-0783 or visit us onlineContractTesting.com.