Cindy Beeren, head of sensory consumer science at Leatherhead Food Research (LFR), said the organisation had noted increased interest in sensory claims over the past year.
The interest in sensory claims, where a product advantage is verified with a large number of consumers was due to the difficulties manufacturers experienced in winning EFSA approval for health claims, she said.
Popular in the United States, sensory claims are beginning to appear on this side of the Atlantic. For example, Coors Light now claims to be ‘the world’s most refreshing beer’ in the UK.
Difficult and costly
Lawrence Mallinson, md of James White Farm Pressed Fruit Juices, said the difficult and costly application process of obtaining an EFSA health claim outweighed the benefits it brought.
His firm, which produces the organic beetroot juice Beet It, had considered applying for a health claim for the effect of nitrates in beetroot juice on blood pressure. But it lacked the time and money to pursue an application.
“Although, in principle a health claim is a good idea because of the body of nonsense being published, once [the EFSA panel has] watered it down, it’s become so anodyne as to be not worth the money.”
Despite the difficulties of winning an EFSA health claim, James White would not use a sensory claim. Mallinson said it was what manufacturers resort to when they fail to be given a health claim. “You do not need EFSA approval if your advertising is oblique enough,” he said.
Mallinson added: “The company is investigating the possibility of getting a health claim not on straightforward beet juice, but a refinement thereof.”
This would give the firm some claim to ownership over the claim, but any developments would be in a number of years, he said.
But the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said health claims continue to make an important contribution. They could still be effective tools for communication because they are short, easily-understood messages that consumers are familiar with, said Barbara Gallani, FDF director of food safety and science.
“If you have a claim that is valued by consumers, it is in the company’s interest to prove it and then use it on the market,” she said.