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Significant differences between Danishes and Chinese in perception of pleasure after a meal

A cross-cultural study accomplished by Aarhus University and Chinese Academy of Sciences compares the drivers of experienced pleasure after a meal among Danish and Chinese consumers. Such differences are important when companies aim to design new foods to be marketed outside Denmark.

2021.05.10 | Lotte Rystedt

Photo: Colourbox

Together with colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, researchers from the Department of Food Science at Aarhus University have compared the eating experiences of Chinese and Danish consumers in a cross-cultural study. More precisely, they have examined the consumers’ experience of pleasure and happiness after eating, the so-called Post-Ingestive Food Pleasure (PIFP).

In the science team ”Food Quality, Perception and Society” at Department of Food Science, Aarhus University, part of the research efforts focuses on an understanding of human appetite and eating behavior.

- We know that a significant part of our eating behavior, including our choices of food, are guided by the physical and mental sensations created by the food. While most studies in sensory research, traditionally speaking, have examined the sensations experienced during intake of a the meal (e.g. related to the food taste) and how these sensations contribute to food acceptance, fewer studies have focused on the sensations experienced after intake of a meal, says Assistant Professor Barbara Vad Andersen, Department of Food Science. She is responsible for the science team’s efforts within the appetite area.

Sensory research sheds light on the effect and functions of the senses in relation to consumers’ perceptions of foods. Barbara Vad Andersen finds it rather surprising, that this research area does not focus more intensely on the subjective experience after meal intake.

- Food intake often serves a purpose that goes beyond the actual meal itself – such as e.g. a wish to stay satiated. Therefore, we decided to gain a deeper insight into the factors primarily contributing to food pleasure after the meal, she says.

Perceptions of foods depend on culture

The present study is part of a Danish – Chinese research cooperation about Food and Health under the Sino-Danish Centre, which is a partnership between the eight Danish universities, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS). Within the framework of this partnership, Danish-Chinese research cooperation is carried out. And therefore, Danish and Chinese perceptions of post-ingestive food pleasure is compared in this project.

- We know from previous research that consumer perceptions of foods depend on the culture we come from. The way we see the world is defined by our own conditions and points of view, in the process of comparing ourselves to others, do we become aware of our own characteristics. This is also true when it comes to our individual perceptions of food. When we gain knowledge of the t drivers of food-related pleasure in other cultures, we become increasingly aware of our own determinants to food pleasures. Danish and Chinese cultures are very different and therefore it seemed obvious to compare these two cultures, says Barbara Vad Andersen.

Differences between Danish and Chinese eating experiences

The researchers examined the sensations that had the highest influence on the degree of pleasure after a meal. Common to both Danish and Chinese consumers, sensations such as satisfaction, mental and physical well-being are of major influence to post-ingestive food pleasure. However, the results also demonstrated significant differences in the perceptions of Danish and Chinese consumers. For Danish consumers pleasure was driven by appetite-related sensations such as whether the food in question would satisfy hunger, ensure satiety and suppress the desire for further food intake.This, however, was not the case for Chinese consumers. In China, food pleasure was driven by vitality and energy-related sensations such as the food’s ability to make the consumer feel more relaxed, energetic and concentrated.

- The results indicate that Danish consumers primarily focused on fulfilling a physical need, whereas Chinese consumers focused on the mental well-being associated with the food in question. Further, we found that in Denmark the food-related pleasure gradually diminished in the hours after intake, while food pleasure remained high among Chinese consumers. This tells us that – in a Danish context – food pleasure is closely related to the food’s properties per se and its ability to satisfy a physical need that consumers experience in the moment. This need often relates to the food’s ability to keep us feel satiated. As time passes after intake, the food is “put to the test” and as hunger takes over, the post-ingestive food pleasure associated with the food is reduced. Among Chinese consumers, food pleasure remained high in the hours after intake, indicating that food pleasure is not as closely associated with the fulfillment of a physical need, says Barbara Vad Andersen.

These results are consistent with the knowledge achieved in previous cross-cultural research efforts. It has been found that in the western world the sensation of well-being is often related to the food’s nutritional properties. In a Chinese context, food pleasure is more spiritual and relates to the food’s mental values, its social status and symbolic meaning.

New knowledge may be important to Danish exports

However, only limited knowledge exists as to how we perceive and assess food across cultures, and therefore this newly acquired knowledge may be of significant importance. Not least, when companies aim to design new foods and concepts to work across cultures and outside national borders.

- To a much higher extent than previously, foods are produced for the global market, and in order to be successful in a highly competitive market, it is important to target your food products at the customers. This study from Department of Food Science brings knowledge on some of the fundamental cultural differences between Danish and Chinese consumers. This knowledge is highly relevant for the food industry and food companies, when they develop and introduce food products at a foreign market, says Professor Derek Victor Byrne, Science Team Leader in the science team  ”Food Quality, Perception and Society”.

The study referred to in this article has been published in the scientific journal Foods, and received financial support from the Sino-Danish Centre and ingredients from Arla Foods A/S.

Aarhus University and Chinese Academy of Sciences cooperate in more areas, e.g. in relation to the Danish-Chinese Master degree programme ”International Food Quality and Health” with Derek Victor Byrne as Danish leader and Barbara Vad Andersen as coordinator. 

Additional information
FundingThis study received funding from the Sino Danish Centre and ingredients from Arla Foods A/S.
Cooperation partnersChinese Academy of Sciences and Sino Danish Centre, from which Prof. Raymond C.K. Chan and Kui Wang facilitated the accomplishment of the research study in China.
Read more

Read the scientific article in Foods: Post-Ingestive Sensations Driving Post-Ingestive Food Pleasure: A Cross-Cultural Consumer Study Comparing Denmark and China

ContactBarbara Vad Andersen, Assistant Professor, Department of Food Science, Aarhus University - Barbarav.andersen@food.au.dk - Phone: +45 3070 7860  

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