By Samantha Kneeskern
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on the influence of retail brands on consumer palatability ratings of strip loin steaks and ground beef.
Researchers at Kansas State University and the Angus Foundation recently reported results of two trials that examine the effect of branding (using “Certified Angus Beef” and “Angus”) on consumer palatability ratings of ground beef and strip loin steaks.
A summary of the results of the first trial involving strip loin steaks can be found in this Taking Stock article. Results of the second trial involving ground beef can be found in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of Animal Science in an article entitled Determination of the effect of brand and product identification on consumer palatability ratings of ground beef patties.
During the ground beef trial, consumers were asked to taste and evaluate beef samples during two testing rounds on the same day. During the first round, consumers were “blind” to the brand and were given no product information. During the second round, consumers were informed of brand before they ate the beef. Consumers were asked to evaluate ground beef samples based on tenderness, juiciness, flavor liking, texture liking, and overall liking, and then rate each palatability trait as either acceptable or unacceptable.
There were six treatments in this study: 90/10 Certified Angus Beef (CAB) ground sirloin, 90/10 ground beef, 80/20 CAB ground chuck, 80/20 ground chuck, 80/20 ground beef, and 73/27 CAB ground beef (as lean/fat percentage).
When consumers were blind to brand and fat percentages, there were hardly any differences for palatability traits between any of the ground beef samples.
After consumers were informed of brand, other than juiciness, the 90/10 CAB ground sirloin patty had the greatest palatability ratings for all categories. Interestingly, the 90/10 CAB ground sirloin ratings increased astoundingly: tenderness by 17%, juiciness 37%, flavor liking 23%, texture liking 18%, and overall liking by 25%.
When asked why consumers can relate so well to “Angus,” corresponding author Dr. Travis O’Quinn stated, “I think that ‘Angus’ resonates with U.S. consumers as a result of the success of Certified Angus Beef. Not only was CAB the very first branded beef program, they also have a set of 10 parameters that center around ensuring a high level of beef eating satisfaction. Because of this, consumers can purchase CAB products and have a very positive and repeatable eating experience time after time.”
After brand disclosure, many CAB product ratings increased, but the only non-CAB branded product that increased was the 90/10 ground beef for tenderness and juiciness.
When the lab analyzed the meat samples, they found that as fat level decreased, hardness, cohesiveness, gumminess, and chewiness increased. When tested blind, increased fat content was correlated with greater juiciness. However, when consumers were told the amount of fat, juiciness was negatively correlated with fat and overall liking decreased. Even with non-CAB beef, when consumers were aware that fat content decreased, they thought that juiciness and palatability increased.
Another interesting find was that unlike trained panelists in previous research, consumers couldn’t pick up on differences between ground chuck and ground beef when blind to brand and type of beef.
Consumers were also given a survey before the taste testing. On a 0 to 100 scale, 100 being extremely important, when asked what their purchasing motivators were, consumers said “Brand of Product” rated as a 43. This could be viewed as a little contradictory to how much brand affected their palatability ratings.
Overall, when consumers are aware of brand and fat concentrations, they believe they are having an improved eating experience.
“In today’s society, many consumer purchasing decisions are brand-driven,” states O’Quinn. “Beef is no different. These studies show branding can provide beef products an added level of eating quality when the products are eaten by consumers.”