From March 2020
Sensory claims: How do they influence consumers?
What is a sensory claim?
A sensory claim is defined as ‘a statement about a
product that highlights its advantages, sensory or
perceptual attributes, or product changes or differences
compared to other products, in order to enhance its
marketability’. They’re commonly featured in all types of
advertising media from TV to packaging and include
statements such as “the UK’s favourite”, “Great taste”
and “Creamier than ever!”.
Why make a sensory claim?
In markets that are increasingly saturated and often very
competitive, sensory claims can be a useful marketing
tool to highlight the unique selling point of a product.
Claims are thought to help consumers shape positive
expectations toward a product at the point of purchase
(e.g. on-pack claims) or pre-purchase (e.g. claims within
TV commercials). Ultimately, the aim is to have a positive
impact on consumers’ purchase decisions. To that end,
claims need to be perceived as meaningful, as well as
relevant and credible by consumers (see page 5 for more
on substantiated claims).
Sometimes sensory claims can be used as alternatives
to health or nutrition claims and, while consumer studies
have demonstrated the positive impact of health and
nutrition claims on product choice and purchase, few
have measured the impact from sensory claims.
What we found
As part of a member-funded research project, we held
a series of focus groups. The goal? To assess UK
consumers’ awareness, understanding and perception
of sensory claims.
Of the key findings from this qualitative study, two that
stood out were:
- consumers tend to pay more attention to
information/claims relating to nutrition, sustainability,
ethical issues, ‘clean label’ and provenance, than to
- the non-comparative sensory claims (e.g. ‘creamy
texture’) appear to resonate with consumers the
most, particularly when they are combined with (or
when they feature alongside) an award or a
Overall, participants were quite cynical about the use and
credibility of many forms of sensory claims.
What does this mean for the industry?
Our research is providing us with a clearer picture of
what influences a consumer’s likelihood to purchase a
product. It appears that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when
it comes to finding the right sensory claim for a product.
The need for a better understanding of which claims
work best for particular products prompted another
consumer study. To reach a broader audience, this one
was conducted online.
Online consumer study
We carried out the online study to quantify the impact of
sensory claims on purchasing decisions, with participants
from the UK, France and Germany. The results will help
us understand the impact that cultural differences have on
the effects of sensory claims. We also investigated
whether the impact of these sensory claims would differ
with different product categories - breakfast cereal, fruit
yoghurt, orange juice and fish pie. The data is currently
being analysed, however initial results show significant
differences in the impact of the sensory and non-sensory
product claims depending on the participants’ country of
origin and the product’s category.
Members can find out the full results Here where you can
find out more about the
project including all of our key findings from our recent focus
group study. How do consumers perceive your products? Are
your sensory claims attracting or repelling them? Find out by
getting in touch to have your product’s claims substantiated by
our sensory and consumer experts.
Contact: Sarah Thomas
OR: Marleen Chambault