Reformulation strategies to reduce the energy density of commonly consumed foods and beverages are intended to support weight management, but expectations generated by labelling these as ‘healthier’ alternatives can have unintended effects on the product’s sensory evaluations and consumption behaviours. We compared the impact of four different strategies for presenting a lower-calorie beverage to consumers on product perceptions, short-term appetite and energy intake. Participants (N
= 112) consumed higher- (211 kcal/portion) and lower-calorie (98 kcal/portion) fixed-portion soymilks in the morning across two test days, with the lower-calorie version presented in one of four contexts varying in label information and sensory quality: (1) sensory-matched/unlabelled, (2) sensory-matched/labelled, (3) sensory-reduced (less sweet and creamy)/labelled, and (4) sensory-enhanced (sweeter and creamier)/labelled. The label was Singapore’s Healthier Choice Symbol, which also highlighted that the soymilk was lower calorie. Changes in reported appetite, ad libitum lunch intake, and self-reported intake for the rest of the text day were recorded. Results indicated that total energy intake was consistently lower on the days the lower calorie beverages were consumed, regardless of how they were presented. However, the ‘healthier choice’ label increased hunger prior to lunch and reduced the soymilks’ perceived thickness and sweetness compared to the same unlabelled version. Increasing the product’s sensory intensity successfully maintained liking, experienced sensory quality and appetite. Results suggest that food companies wanting to explicitly label product reformulations could combine messages of ‘lower calorie’ and ‘healthier choice’ with appropriate taste and texture enhancements to maintain acceptance and avoid negative effects on appetite.
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