Food Choice and Consumer Behavior Research

Study of consumer food choice at the individual, family, and community level. Consumer perception of processed foods, food safety, food ingredients, biotechnology and nanotechnology. Psychophysics of taste and flavor perception, genetic variation in food sensations and reward.

Individuals make food decisions everyday based on past experience, perceptual differences, habitual intake and responses to environmental cues. Even young children make food choices in grocery stores, day care units, schools and at social events. Sensory science measures and evaluates the characteristics of foods that make them appealing to consumers. This allows food companies to design foods that appeal to various market sectors, including children. Methods from sensory science can also be used to understand biological variation that predisposes individuals to either consume or avoid foods that have potential to impact health and wellness.

Families, as represented by its household members, have considerable influence on both individual food choice made outside the family as well as choices served or offered within the family setting. Current research examining the family food system includes understanding how a) risk perception, b) family member food preferences; c) gender roles; and d) traditional food patterns affect food choices. Strategies to increase family openness to new choices or patterns (i.e. increased flexibility) are being developed and tested.

Food Choice and Consumer Behavior researchers in the Department of Food Science at Penn State.