To investigate the effect of front-of-pack labels on taste perception and use of table salt for currently available and sodium-reduced soups.
Participants (n 50, mean age 34·8 (sd 13·6) years) were randomly served nine soups (250 ml each) across 3 d. Servings differed in: (i) health label (i.e. no health label, reduced-salt label or Heart Foundation Tick); and (ii) sodium reduction (no reduction – benchmark, 15 % less sodium or 30 % less sodium). Before tasting, participants rated their expected salt intensity and liking. After tasting, participants rated their perceived salt intensity and liking, after which they could add salt to the soup to make it more palatable.
Reduced-salt labels generated a negative taste expectation and actual taste experience in terms of liking (P < 0·05) and perceived saltiness (P < 0·05). Perceived saltiness of sodium-reduced soups decreased more (P < 0·05), and consumers added more salt (P < 0·05), when soups carried the reduced-salt label. The tick logo and soups without health labels had no such influence on taste perception.
Emphasizing salt reduction by means of a front-of-pack label can have a negative effect on taste perception and salt use, especially when consumers are able to taste differences between their regular soup and the sodium-reduced soup. Overall health logos which do not emphasize the reduction in salt are less likely to affect perceived salt intensity and therefore are viable solutions to indicate the healthiness of sodium-reduced products.
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