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New research shows sustainability can be a selling point for new ingredients

Thursday, 30 January 2020

The first UK consumer study on the use of Bambara Groundnut as an ingredient in products has shown that sharing information on sustainable features increased consumers’ positive emotional connection to food.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham’s School of Biosciences tested Biscotti and crackers made with Bambara groundnut against standard commercial products. The study published in Food Research International showed that the main driver for accepting this new ingredient was how people felt when given information about its sustainability credentials.

Alternative crops

With current global challenges such as population growth, climate change and water scarcity, it is critical to develop strategies to achieve food security. The University of Nottingham’s Future Food Beacon of Excellence and Malaysia campus along with Crops for the Future research projects have been investigating ways to tackle this by researching alternative crops that are resistant to climate change.

They have discovered that Bambara Groundnut found in Africa puts limited demands on soil and is capable of growing in nutrient poor soils where most crops would not thrive. Bambara is high in carbohydrate and protein and is gluten free so could offer an alternative to rice and wheat flour.

100 participants were invited to the University of Nottingham’s Sensory Science Centre to undertake two tasting sessions of biscotti and crackers – two commercial products and two with Bambara flour. For each sample participants were asked to rate their overall liking and emotional response based on sensory properties of the product. The first tasting was done ‘blind’ with a red light masking the appearance of the products. The participants were then invited back for a second session where they were informed about global resource challenges and the sustainable features of Bambara and told which products contained this ingredient.

Dr Qian Yang, Assistant Professor in Sensory and Consumer Sciences at the University of Nottingham led the research and explains what they found: “Under the blind condition, no significant differences in overall liking were observed between standard and Bambara products, suggesting UK consumers accept the sensory properties of products containing Bambara flour. This indicates as long as the products taste good consumers engage with the new sustainable crops. Interestingly, after being given the information about climate and sustainability issues we saw a shift towards more positive emotions towards the Bambara product and people felt guiltier when eating standard products.”

This study gives an important insight into how emotional response could be used as a way to encourage consumers to eat more sustainable products. Our participants’ positive reactions to the information they were given about the sustainable credentials of the products suggest this type of information could help with promotion when a new product is brought to market.
Tim Foster, Professor in Food Structure

Story credits

More information on the research is available from Dr Qian Yang at the University of Nottingham on qian.yang@nottingham.ac.uk orJane Icke Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham, on 0115 951 5751 or jane.icke@nottingham.ac.uk.

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Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. The University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its status as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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