How Nutri-Score affects the way consumers taste cake - the key insights

31 Jul 2023

Consumers want less fat, less sugar, and more fiber, more grains, more nuts and lots of fruits. Over one in two consumers are looking for healthier food alternatives, our worldwide Taste Tomorrow consumer showed. With the new Nutri-Score front-of-pack nutrition labeling, it becomes even easier for consumers to make the healthiest choice possible. 

But how does the Nutri-Score affect our perception of taste? We tested it by giving 203 French consumers cupcakes with Nutri-Score ratings from a relatively healthy B to a not-so-good-for-you E. 

This is what we found out:

Healthy taste better

When the Nutri-Score was disclosed, product appreciation decreased the most for D and E rated cakes. Consumers also described these cakes as being more "buttery" and "fatty." Interestingly, the study also found that consumer usage and knowledge of the Nutri-Score played a role in their reactions to the cakes. Among those who regularly use the Nutri-Score, the cake with Nutri-Score C was the most popular, while those who don't use it preferred the cake with a D score.

Four fruity cupcakes

The 203 French consumers in the research tried 4 different cupcakes with fruit filling. Each cake was made from a different cake mix recipe with a Nutri-Score of B, C, D and E, but had the same fruit filling and topping. First, everybody did a blind taste test without knowing the cake’s health score. Then, they tried all four cakes again while the Nutri-Score information was disclosed. Each time, they had to score the taste of the cake and give a description of their taste perception.

Nutri-Score: green is good

The study took place in France, because they were the first to implement the Nutri-Score front-of-pack labeling system. Since then, several other European governments have followed their lead. All packaged foods there are now obligated to disclose their nutrient content in front-of-pack labeling. The score is rated on a scale from a red E score (least healthy) to a green A (most healthy).

The Nutri-Score is calculated based on the levels of energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium a product contains. But it also takes the amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes into account, and in some instances even the protein and fiber content.

Taste implications 

The positive impact of the Nutri-Score - consumers making better decisions when standing in front of the supermarket shelves - is already proven by several studies. But the research on the taste perception and appreciation of products has gotten very little attention. That’s why we’ve set up our own study to help bakers, patissiers and industrial producers create the right type of products. 

What does the outcome of this research imply? That it is of crucial importance to strike a balance between taste and health when developing and positioning products. We saw that product appreciation decreases the most for products labeled D and E once the Nutri-Score is known. That means consumers think a cake tastes less good when they think it’s not good for them. They are willing to compromise between a great taste and a healthier cake. 

But it is important to keep in mind the differences between avid users of the Nutri-Score and consumers who have lower knowledge of the front-of-pack labeling. In our experiment, we saw significant differences between those groups. 30% of the consumers we interviewed say they use the Nutri-Score, while the other 70% does not. The non-users preferred the D label cake, while the rest went for the healthier C label option. 

Use the Nutri-Score to your advantage

Our Taste Tomorrow research shows that 1 in 2 consumers are looking for food options that support their holistic health. But 60% of people are unwilling to compromise on flavor for health benefits. 

So in order to win over consumers, you have to make your cakes, bread and treats as healthy as can be, but they have to be equally indulgent and scrumptious as their predecessors with a lower nutritional value.

The good news is that while you do have to bring your A game, your products do not have to qualify for an A level Nutri-Score. Cakes with a C score are preferred by consumers who use the Nutri-Score when making product choices. So a small adjustment goes a long way.

Get advice on making healthier and equally tasty bakes

Our Puratos experts know exactly which ingredients and recipe adjustments are necessary to upgrade the Nutri-Score rating of your baked goods. Get in touch with your local representative and get advice on how to turn that E-rating into a C.