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Getting emotional: What creates consumers’ responses to beer?

Sensory properties, packaging, and even the context (whether beer is drunk at home or in a bar) can all influence emotional responses to beer, say researchers.

But packaging cues are more influential on the emotional response to beer than sensory attributes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists. However, sensory attributes still do have a role to play.

The researchers highlight that packaging is particularly important for beer, with the beverage often drunk straight out of the can or bottle. In addition, brewers face stiff competition and need to know how to differentiate their products and gain a competitive advantage.

High emotional response

In the study carried out by the Technical University of Madrid (Spain) and the University of Nottingham (UK), consumers’ liking and emotional responses to a set of lagers were assessed under three different conditions: liquid only; packaging only, and with both packaging and liquid.

The liquid only set enabled the response evoked by the sensory properties to be evaluated, whereas the packaging condition assessed expected liking and the emotional response prompted by the packaging. The final condition (of both pack and liquid) allowed the interaction of these two conditions to be considered.

The study found that, in terms of packaging, outlining a high alcohol content triggered a high emotional response – either negative or positive, such as ‘aggressive’ or ‘adventure.’

Meanwhile, beer packaging which stated a low ABV was found to prompt less strong emotions, such as ‘boring’ or ‘calm.’ In the sensory area, beers with a higher level of carbonation were related to an increased ‘pleasantness’ of emotion. The sweeter the beer, however, the less engaging the emotional response was.

“From a sensory perspective, increasing carbonation was closely related to increasing pleasantness of emotion, whereas sweetness was associated with level of engagement-the sweeter the beer, the less engaging the emotional response,” wrote the authors in the study.

“From a pack perspective, pleasantness of emotion was associated with familiarity of the product, whereas increasing alcohol content was associated with more engaging emotions.

“In the informed condition [both liquid and packaging], which mimics the consumption experience, pleasantness was still associated with carbonation, but sweetness and body, the latter being associated with alcohol content, were also shown to influence unpleasant emotions.

“Overall packaging cues had a stronger influence on final product positioning in the emotional space, although for some beers sensory properties were still most influential.

“In order to create the optimal experience, it would appear prudent for the beer industry to align the positive emotional signature of the packaging with that of the sensory properties of the beer to create the optimal consumer experience.”

Directly consumed from the bottle itself

Ten lagers that are found commonly in the UK were used in the study.

The researchers recognise a number of factors can affect the emotional response to beer. Some are sensory (for example, flavour, aroma, mouthfeel); while others include advertising or packaging material. Context (such as where the beer is being drunk – at a party, bar, home or barbeque) can also influence emotions.

“Extrinsic packaging cues such as the packaging itself, nutritional information, price, and labelling generate consumer expectation,” wrote the authors. “This is particularly pertinent for beer, as it is often poured from, served with, and sometimes even directly consumed from the bottle or can itself.

“As consumers are unable to try the product before purchase, the visual appearance of package design has the ability to generate affect and create value and hence influence the consumption experience.

“The emotional signature associated with a product is becoming increasingly important for differential advantage, especially when products within the same category are often similar with respect to quality and price. In addition, emotions evoked by products also enhance the pleasure of buying, owning, and consuming them.”

Source: Beverage Daily

Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists

‘Measuring the emotional response to beer and the relative impact of sensory and packaging cues’

  1. Chaya; J. Pacoud; M. Ng; A. Fenton; J. Hort.