Consumers now demand higher quality in all aspects of life. This has had a
particular effect on the food industry where the need for quality encompasses both
food safety and sensory characteristics. The sous vide process was developed to
produce food on a large scale but with superior sensory qualities compared to theproducts of cook-chill and cook-freeze systems.This research aimed to determine whether the sous vide process could producemeals with superior sensory properties as claimed. A literature survey indicated thatcraft-based assessors (chefs) claimed improved qualities in sous vide products which
were not consistently supported by sensory analysts (scientists). Empirical studies
were conducted to test whether sous vide and conventionally processed dishes couldbe distinguished by untrained assessors in a controlled laboratory environment and
with assessors in an ecologically valid environment, a restaurant. In the laboratory,
the sous vide meals were easily distinguishable from and less acceptable than theconventionally produced dish. In the restaurant, few significant differences werefound. Thus the ecologically valid environment of the restaurant where the manyextrinsic factors affect consumers' perceptions, effectively masked differencesbetween the sous vide and conventionally prepared meals.
To explore the reasons for this, a survey (n188) was conducted to determine
the relative importance of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors affecting the acceptability
of foods when eating out. Results included a factor analysis which clearly showed
components of 'customer care' had the greatest influence on the pleasure of eating
out, followed by 'drink', and the absence of 'entertainment'. The factor which
included 'enjoyment of food' was eleventh in the level of influence. Two scales were
also devised to assess consumers' attitudes towards complaining about problems withmeals and towards the technology used to produce them.This work has demonstrated that although consumers assume that the intrinsicqualities of food are the most important facator giving them pleasure when eating out,
many extrinsic factors will have a much greater influence on affecting their overallpleasure from the experience.