To determine if gluten-free food labels impact consumers' perceptions of overall likeability, flavor and texture of two types of food products, and to determine beliefs about the healthfulness of gluten-free diets.
Study Design, Setting, Participants, and Intervention
Participants (n=97) were recruited from the University of Florida campus over a one-day period. Panelists were presented with two sets of paired items (cookies and chips) equaling four total products. One item from each pair was labeled “gluten free” and one “conventional.” All paired items were identical gluten-free products. Researchers utilized a within-participant design.
Outcome, Measures and Analysis
Panelists rated each item on a nine-point hedonic scale for overall liking, flavor, and texture then answered a short questionnaire to determine health beliefs relating to gluten-free diets. Responses were recorded using Compusense software, and analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine the impact of labeling.
No significant differences were reported for overall likeability, taste, or texture for either product pair. While 57% of participants agreed that gluten-free diets were used to treat medical conditions, 32% believed that they were prescribed for weight loss. Other beliefs included that excluding gluten from an otherwise healthy individual's diet would improve overall health (31%), improve digestive health (35%), improve the diet (32%), and improve skin/complexion (21%). In addition, 37% agreed that gluten-free foods were healthier than their gluten containing counterparts.
Conclusions and Implications
Results from this study indicate that gluten-free labels do not significantly impact consumer's perceptions of food quality, although consumers may have unsubstantiated beliefs about the healthfulness and potential positive impact of gluten-free diets.
© 2014 Published by Elsevier Inc.