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Blackwell Science, LtdOxford, UKFSTFood Service Technology1471-5732Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 20033••99105Original ArticleA three-factor approach to understanding

food qualityH. L. Meiselman

Editorial review
Editorial review

A three-factor approach to understanding food quality: the product, the person and the environment*
Herbert L. Meiselman
US Army Natick Soldier Center, Natick, MA 01760, USA; Bournemouth University, Poole, UK

Correspondence: Herbert L. Meiselman, US Army Natick Soldier Center, Natick, MA 01760, USA. Tel: (+1) 508 233 4522; Fax: (+1) 508 233 5527; E-mail: herbert.l.meiselman@us. Keywords: consumer, context, environment, food acceptance, food quality, product

Food quality and food acceptability were judged from the product alone in the early 20th century, and from the product and consumer beginning in the middle of the 20th century. Later we began to realize the importance of the context or environment in judgments of product quality and assessments of product acceptability. This paper reviews the growth of the three factor approach to understanding quality and acceptability, and presents an example of current research in each. Meal context, expectations, and eating location research are reviewed as examples of the three factor approach. The importance of context is emphasized throughout the review.

During the early part of the 20th century, advances in agriculture, food technology, food processing, and food product development yielded a greater variety of food products than had ever been available before. The acceptability of these products was largely based on the product itself. At that time, product quality was judged in the format of the goods industry, and quality was assessed as a deviation from a standard or the absence of defects. This tradition continues in the quality assurance and quality control fields. In the middle of the 20th century, the role of the consumer began to develop as an important additional consideration of the product in product acceptance and product quality. It appears that the term ‘food acceptability’ began with the development at the US Army Food and Container Institute in Chicago of a laboratory for the study and measurement of food acceptability, and with the development of techniques to measure acceptance. The Chicago group developed the ninepoint hedonic scale (Peryam & Pilgrim 1957) that con*This paper was first delivered as a keynote paper at the Fourth International Conference on Culinary Arts and Science (ICCAS 03) held at Örebro University, Sweden, 23–27 June 2003.

tinues in use today, despite frequent criticism and attempts to remove it. By the end of the third quarter of the 20th century, two areas of interest had developed for those interested in food quality and food acceptability; those factors surrounding the food itself, and those factors surrounding the consumer/eater. The latter factors included psychological, sociological and physiological factors.

Recognizing context in Natick research
When the Army food research programme moved from Chicago to Natick, the main focus of the programme was feeding soldiers in the field under varying conditions of climate. The behavioural scientists at Natick became involved in a series of both field and laboratory studies that monitored eating from several days up to 45 days. Before these long-term field projects, they had worked under the simple assumption that people ate what they liked, so that by measuring preference and acceptance, one could predict intake. A number of laboratory studies showed good correlations between acceptance and intake, and the researchers had assumed that this relationship would hold in long-term field situations. We recently observed this again in a midday meal study, conducted in a commercial sensory laboratory

© Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2003 Food Service Technology, 3, pp. 99–105


and rated the food higher in the field (6.28 7. pizza.7 for those eating all of the salad.00) throughout the study.06 6. pizza (r = 0.46 6.00 6.80 7. P < 0. 3.c. and their intake declined over the course of the study from 2225 to 1681 kcal (Table 2).69 6. Meiselman Table 1 Acceptance judgements and estimated portions consumed for three components of a laboratory test meal* About one-fourth n Acceptance About three-fourths n Acceptance A few bites n Salad Male Female Pizza Male Female Tea Male Female Acceptance About one half n Acceptance Ate all n Acceptance Mean 5 4 6.100 A three-factor approach to understanding food quality H.9a.80 5. and tea (r = 0.9 and 2. contextual. and tea (Table 1).b 6.7b 5. while students liked the food less but ate more of it.30 6.6.68 37 94 7. students ate more food (3149 kcal).00 4. yielded a rating in the mid 7s for all products.56.11 7.46. leading us to conclude that acceptability did not necessarily predict intake.24 16 79 7. and short-term studies with soldiers of military operational rations* Intake Long-term studies Soldiers in the field (33 days) Students in the lab (44 days) Short-term studies Soldiers in the cafeteria Soldiers in field *Source: Hirsch & Kramer (1993). We conducted a follow-up study to test these results.4a. on the standard nine-point hedonic scale from dislike extremely (1) to like extremely (9).8c 3.b.5b 7.01 121 101 7. We found (Table 2) that soldiers ate about 1000 kcal more in the cafeteria (3848 kcal) than in the field (2876 kcal). P < 0. Once again.88 3 19 6. 2003 Food Service Technology. pp. In the field. as evidenced by complete sample consumption. Within each cell are shown the overall average acceptance rating (scale 1–9).2b 5.7 to 7.4 for those eating a few bites to 7.4c 0 8 2.80 5 20 4. which all monotonically increased.00 2.10 2.3a 7. (2003).44 7. At Natick. food acceptability remained high (7. different letters represent differences. Salad showed the smallest range of acceptance scores. acceptance scores varied from 2.06) than soldiers (7.90 (Meiselman et al.00 6.7d 4. as well as the average acceptance for male and female.61 7. In the university study. and first reported our observations at the 1987 Reading Sympo- © Blackwell Publishing Ltd.6a *Numbers followed by the same letters (a.40 4. A clearly acceptable product. 2003).0001). We began to realize that the factors that distinguished the field from the cafeteria were responsible for the effects we were observing. Our first experience with the ‘new reality’ occurred in our first study of long-term eating patterns in soldiers.05).82 18 60 6.61 90 122 7. We clung to the view that the product controls eating. We called these effects situational. There was increasing consumption with increasing acceptance for salad.80 6.b 7. This change occurred slowly because we were slow to change our old views on the role of product factors.05 6. our understanding of what controls eating changed radically in the mid 1980s. 99–105 .9d 3 15 2.0001). The correlation between acceptance and consumption was highly significant for salad (r = 0. soldiers ate only two-thirds of the foods provided (2189/3600 kcal).30).95 7. However. we observed the relationship of soldiers eating more but rating the food lower in cafeterias.d) are not significantly different.50 6.28.90) than in the cafeteria (6.15 14 45 6. We fed the same army field rations to soldiers both in a cafeteria and in the field.4 7.95 6.38 109 116 7.03 7. and eating less but rating the food higher in the field. Acceptance 2189 3149 3848 2876 7. P < 0. respectively.25 4 15 6. for one product at one level of consumption.7a 6.87 7. and we were encouraged in this view by the food technologists and other product developers who sponsored our work. from 5.93 13 22 7.b 6.9c 6.05/9.0001). Source: Meiselman et al. L. a field study that lasted 33 days and was followed by a more controlled university study of students that lasted 45 days (Hirsch & Kramer 1993).3 and 7.5 5.3a 7. Table 2 Intake and acceptance measures for long-term field studies with soldiers and students. For pizza and tea.79 9 50 7.0a.84 2. but rated it lower (6. So we were faced with the puzzling situation in which soldiers liked the food more but ate less of it. or environmental.

for example in sandwich and pizza meals.90 pizza + 0. This can change in different contexts with different types of meals. L. the three factors controlling impressions of food quality. Other aspects of meal acceptability have been modelled.2). Meiselman 101 sium on Food Acceptability (Meiselman et al. Most people seek variety in their meals.A three-factor approach to understanding food quality H. 1987).24 dessert + 0.28 veg + 0.57 dessert Turner & Collison (1988) Meal = 0.28 fruit + 0. Product differences between two versions of each product maintained differences for the salad and the pizza but not for the tea. usually less than half the value of the main dish.21 candy © Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Concerning the individual I will discuss consumer expectations. the laboratory is its own context. the main dish (sandwich or pizza) accounts for most of the overall acceptability (Hedderley & Meiselman 1995). Expectation can be defined as the belief that products will possess certain sensory attributes at certain intensities and/or the belief that the products will be liked/disliked to a certain degree (Cardello 1994).98 + 0. 2000).24 accessories + 0. Why was Natick one of the first laboratories to study environment? Because most food product development research is conducted in laboratories. one can just choose a simpler context. the person and the environment. (2003) recently compared food products individually within the standard conditions of a hall taste test. The dominance of the main dish is also supported by how trained chefs plan meals. and tries to determine how acceptable a meal is when it was eaten recently or not recently.71 sandwich + 0. Ratings increased from the laboratory setting to the meal setting for salad (7. although a small percentage like eating the same foods often (Kramer et al. 2001). food combinations. Concerning the product. Expectation is Table 3 Meal models developed in three separate studies distinguished three different meal types in which the main dish accounts for different percentages of overall meal acceptance Rogozenski & Moskowitz (1982) Meal = 5. I would like to present several contemporary areas of research dealing with the product.25 salad + 0.83 + 0. and context is eliminated or controlled in the laboratory. it appears that testing foods in meal contexts rather than individually might enhance their ratings while maintaining product distinctions. pp. King et al. The main dish within a meal usually accounts for about one half of the overall acceptability. Of course. 3.24 accessories + 0. The person and the role of expectations During the 1990s. with the remaining one half distributed among the other components (Rogozenski & Moskowitz 1982.14 potato Hedderley & Meiselman (1995) Main dish meal = 3.0–7.24 fruit + 0.27 salad + 0. vegetable or starch account for much less of overall meal acceptance. Side dishes such as salad.2–7.24 starch + 0. and plan the rest of the meal around it (Schaffheitle 2000). Clearly.22 dessert + 0. temporal factors.43 entrée + 0.57 + 0. I will present the role of meal context in looking at individual meal items. or within a meal setting. and time since last serving (Moskowitz 2000).22 starch + 0. psychologists studying food-related behaviour borrowed from expectation theory. and I will describe studies that present the same products in different locations to determine the effects of environment. especially the institutional sector or other sectors that feed the same people frequently.53 starch + 0.29 veg + 0.5) and tea (5.12 candy Pizza Meal = 1.0).9–7. 99–105 . The lunch-time meal consisted of pizza.21 sweet + 0. salad and iced tea. including monotony. 2003 Food Service Technology. This is important for the food service industry. Natick was forced into more realistic contexts because of the need to predict intake in specific situations.28 candy Sandwich meal = 2.7 entrée + 0.32 salad + 0. They usually begin with the main dish. Thus.61 entrée + 0.68 + 2. and people come to the laboratory with their own expectations of what will happen and what the food will be like.39 + 0. and where the food provided might be the primary or only source of nutrients. we need more research on testing foods within meal contexts rather than individually. one cannot do this from laboratory research. but remained the same for pizza (7. Turner & Collison 1988). One cannot eliminate context.14 starter + 0.23 accessories + 0. and the importance of conducting food acceptance and intake studies in natural eating environments (Meiselman et al. and their role in changing impressions of products. The effect of other foods in the meal Prior studies have examined the relationship between overall meal acceptability and the proportion that each meal component contributes (Table 3).42 veg + 0.21 fruit + 0. Time since last serving addresses the issue of monotony. I began to argue about the importance of contextual effects.

If the food is quite poor. Products that are expected to be better are rated higher. 2003 Food Service Technology. perhaps it is because lower ratings have less room to move lower than higher ratings have to move higher. what happens when the actual product is different from the expected product (see Cardello 1994). The contrast model predicts that ratings move away from the blind point when the consumer perceives a difference between expectation and actual. They manipulated expectations with different labels and lists of ingredients. The one exception supported a contrast model. Tables 10–13. In one test. Cardello & Sawyer (1992) manipulated expectations of candy or beverages in three different ways. Siret & Issanchou (2000) also supported an assimilation model in their study of traditional and nontraditional pate de campagne. in a second test they manipulated expected liking of beverages with positive. The assimilation model predicts that the product rating moves in the direction of the expectation for both negative and positive expectations. another attitude that is brought into the food situation. The acceptability of a product appears to be related to both product characteristics and to what people expect the product to be. a contrast model holds. An example of this is eating foods in a high quality restaurant. they compared expected liking and actual liking for a candy product. Expectations have been shown to be a potent variable in acceptability. These were ranked as follows: home > traditional full service restaurant > diner/fast food > school foodservice > military foodservice > airline food service = hospital foodservice © Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All models agree when expected performance equals actual performance. that is. They found further support for a greater likelihood to assimilate towards expectations after a negative disconfirmation that after a positive one. With one exception. you might like it more because of the assimilation effect induced by the positive expectations of the restaurant. The contrast model explains why a lower rated sample is judged even more harshly when rated along with higher rated samples. With a positive expectation the product would be rated more highly than the same product rated blind. 3. Cardello et al. that is. a magnified reaction away from the expectation (Table 4). and products that are expected to be worse are rated lower. pp. all the three tests supported the assimilation model. we know how expectations function in general. In some of the earliest studies on manipulating food expectations. predicts that products are rated lower under all disconfirmations. an assimilation model holds. Expectation theory has presented four different models (Table 4) to account for expectation effects on judgements of product acceptability. In other words. Meiselman Table 4 Summary of predicted effects of disconfirmed consumer expectations* Product better than expected (positive disconfirmation) Decrease Increase Decrease Decrease (under low disconfirm) Increase (under high disconfirm) Product worse than expected (negative disconfirmation) Increase Decrease Decrease Increase (under low disconfirm) Decrease (under high disconfirm) Model Assimilation Contrast Generalized negativity Assimilation-contrast *Adapted from Cardello (1995). except when a threshold is reached. and in a third test they used pre-established baseline product ratings to test for confirmation disconfirmation. with higher disconfirmations. if the food is fairly good. but not necessarily how they function in the real world. The fourth model. 1998). and then will show contrast. The assimilation-contrast model predicts that ratings will assimilate. negative or minimum information paragraphs. We now use expectations as a key variable in acceptance research (Tuorila et al. that is. It is not clear why this is the case. you will rate it even lower than you might if the food were presented blind – this is a con- trast effect. it is still not clear how much consumers attend to product descriptions in actual purchase or dining situations.102 A three-factor approach to understanding food quality H. This is the basis for luxury labelling. People also have clear expectations of how good food will be in different locations. whenever expectation are not met. that is. With low disconfirmation of expectations. L. move towards the expectation. more than the actual quality would suggest. Someone who is disappointed will severely down-rate an item. (1996) asked people to rate their expected liking of foods in different locations. specifically the models explain disconfirmed expectations. the generalized negativity model. Negative information has less impact than positive information. and Cardello & Sawyer (1992) point out that contrast effects are rarely observed. 99–105 . As the authors point out.

hotels. This suggests that laboratory measurement of food acceptance might represent a moderate perception of product acceptability between the highs of restaurants and the lows of cafeterias. In the first study the same prepared meal was served in the training restaurant and in a student food science laboratory.67 Flavour 5. These were adequate to demonstrate the overall location effect. Different people eat in jails. The results showed that restaurant patrons rated their overall meal one scale-point higher (7. In the first study. 2003).28 Colour 5.b) are significantly different.33 *Source: Meiselman et al. Further research is needed to determine whether laboratory measurement represents a middle position in the overall scheme of locations.63b n 43 36 88 83 77 43 33 33 19 32 Categorizing eating locations The significant effects of eating location prompted us to examine other eating locations. © Blackwell Publishing Ltd. This is a difficult task because locations usually come with their own people.65 5.15 5. The restaurant meal scored higher. The study found significant differences in acceptability of the same prepared food served in the different locations. Results show that the training restaurant again scored highest. This study included a wide range of eating locations and a wide range of people.b 7. conducted in the training restaurant and the student refectory (cafeteria) at Bournemouth University. *Means with different letters (a. university. Importantly. Professor John Edwards and I. and in a food science laboratory (Table 5). in the training restaurant. UK.09a. (2000) demonstrated the importance of eating location by presenting identical foods in different locations.b 7. USA. the same prepared meal was served in dining halls. 2003 Food Service Technology. Many factors contribute to the differences in perceived acceptability in different locations. In Table 6. the restaurant and hotel. and served on plates to the paying customers in the restaurant and to the paying students in the cafeteria. Meiselman 103 Eating location The effect of eating location Until recently there have been few studies of eating location itself. The highest ratings are those that are whitetablecloth dining.09a. L. etc.64a 6. Second. in fast food restaurants. some of the same demographic groups were in more than one location. we needed a broader representation of eating locations than we had been able to find in our first studies that were limited to training restaurants Table 5 Effects of serving the identical food item (Fettucine Alf redo with chicken) in three different settings on ratings of flavour texture and colour and overall acceptance* Overall Laboratory Dining hall Restaurant 5. Meiselman then joined with Dr Jennifer Crouch at East Carolina University. in fancy restaurants and in hotels. Interestingly the laboratory rated in the middle. pp.18 6. We did this for two reasons: first. Elderly patrons were found in the training restaurant.13 6. A pattern of differences does emerge. the army.69a 6. The lowest ratings appear to be those that can be described as institutional. studied the acceptance of an identical prepared food product (chicken and rice) served in 10 different locations (Edwards et al. hospital. In the second study.63a 6.b 7. which also had a training restaurant and student cafeterias. (2003). 3.05a.39 6. However. working in England. and the two elderly facilities. 99–105 . The students were served in both their cafeteria and in the white-tablecloth training restaurant.99a.06) on a ninepoint hedonic scale than the student patrons (6.80 5.16).78 Texture 5. but not to delve further into the location variable. Meiselman et al. in hospitals. Source: Edwards et al. (2000).b 7. Army rations were shipped from the USA. and student cafeterias. Middle-aged patrons were found in the restaurants.79 5.66a 6.A three-factor approach to understanding food quality H. and in the private party. removed from their packaging. Younger people were found in the school. we needed to separate the consumers from the locations that they occupy. locations marked with the same letter are not different.28 6. Locations and expectations. These ranged from a military camp and elderly housing to restaurants and hotels (Table 6). Students working on the project asked the restaurant patrons and the students to rate their food.58b 7. we Table 6 Acceptance ratings for the same food served in 10 different locations* Overall acceptability Location/situation Army training camp University staff refectory Private boarding school Freshman’s buffet Private party Residential home (elderly) Student refectory Day care centre (elderly) University 4-star restaurant Hotel 4-star restaurant Mean 6.

There is a good relationship between the two rankings. Appetite 35:231–7. Meiselman HL. 1996) and actual acceptance ratings on the nine-point hedonic scale in different locations for a chicken and rice dish (Edwards et al. Hirsch ES. Kramer MF (1993) Situational influences on food intake. Blackie Academic and Professional: London. believe that one of the dominant factors is the different expectations towards the different locations. Cardello AV (1995) The role of images. Meiselman HL. and the use of intake to predict product acceptability in a meal. B Marriott). When Rozin & Turoila (1992) considered context. 77–88. Moskowitz HR (2000) Integrating consumers. the eater. Weber A (2003) Relationship of acceptability to consumption in a meal-testing environment. because each affects the other. I wish to summarize by saying that consideration of food quality must consider the food product itself. suggesting that expectations are an important part of the perceived differences between locations (Table 7). pp. designers. Peryam DR. *Expectations were collected in the USA from students and soldiers. pp. BM Marriott). Context is everything outside of that event that has relevance to that event. Food Technology 11:9–14. MD. Lesher L (2003) The influence of eating location on the acceptability of identically prepared foods. pp. meal context. In: Dimensions of the Meal (ed. Elsevier Applied Science: London. Food Quality and Preference 7:7–20. Weber AJ. the reader will notice that each of these three could be considered a contextual variable itself. Appetite 41:203–4. National Academy Press: Washington. 215–43. 99–105 .63 Elderly residential home 7. Journal of Sensory Studies 7:253–77. Edwards JSA.63. DC.05 Cardello AV (1994) Consumer expectations and their role in food acceptance. Conclusion I have presented our current view of the major factors that affect perception of food quality: the food itself. Restaurant 7. Lv N (2003) The effect of meal situation. and it makes each of our factors above. Aspen: Gaithersburg. Food Quality and Preference 14:647–52.104 A three-factor approach to understanding food quality H. and they need to be considered together. Cardello AV. Abstracted in Symposium Proceedings. As noted above. DC. Oral paper O77. Boston. pp. focusing on the meal context for food products. physical environment and choice on food acceptability.66 Army Camp 6. Cardello AV. acceptance ratings were collected in the UK from people in these different locations. and the environment in which the food is consumed. 245–69. 2003)* Ranking of expectations Home Restaurant Fast food School Military Airline Hospital Ranking of acceptance We will leave it to future writers to determine what is included in context. the expectations of the diner. Presented to Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium. Lesher LL. Edwards A. and locations. In: Nutritional Needs in Hot Environments (ed. 3. Appetite 36:239–40. King SC. Meiselman HL. L. stereotypes and expectations in the acceptance and consumption of rations. Kramer FM (1996) Attitudes of consumers toward military and other institutional foods. 177–201. DMH Thomson). In: Measurement of Food Preferences (eds HJM MacFie. In: Food Acceptability (ed. Reeve W. USA. 7. This definition makes context very large. Meiselman HL (1995) Modeling meal acceptability in a free choice environment. Popper RD (1987) Sensory hedonic and situational factors in food acceptance and consumption. pp. Meiselman HL. In: Not Eating Enough (ed. who is eating the food and their characteristics. Food Quality and Preference 6:15–26. Kramer FM. I have also presented current research in each of these three areas. July 20–24. Sawyer FM (1992) Effects of disconfirmed consumer expectations on food acceptability. (1996) reported that people rated their expected liking of foods in different locations in the following order: home > traditional full service restaurant > diner/fast food > school foodservice > military foodservice > airline food service = hospital foodservice We examined the relationship between the expected acceptance and the ranking of locations according to acceptance. Crouch JE (2000) Demonstrations of the influence of the eating environment on food acceptance. and researchers into the development and optimization of meals. contextual variables. Bell R. Meiselman HL (2001) Monotony and choice: repeated serving of the same food item to soldiers under field conditions. © Blackwell Publishing Ltd. and the different locations for food service. 253–97. Boarding school 6. developers. 2003. and these three factors need to be considered in an integrated manner. DMH Thomson). Meiselman HL. Cardello et al.58 References Student refectory 7. King S. Johnson JL. expectations.09. 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