Demand, Users and Innovation
Edited by Rod Coombs, Ken Green, Albert Richards and Vivien Walsh
Chapter 12: Taste as a form of adjustment between food and consumers
12. Taste as a form of adjustment between food and consumers Cécile Méadel and Vololona Rabeharisoa INTRODUCTION What part does taste – that of products and consumers – play in the construction and renewal of agri-food markets? This question is of both practical and theoretical interest. On the one hand professionals in the business are fully aware of the criticism of those who denounce industrial manipulation of the taste of products1 – especially nowadays when questions of food safety and quality are prominent concerns. On the other hand both professionals and analysts stumble against the ﬂuctuations of the taste of consumers. After the exploration of consumers’ rationality, after the integration of consumers’ emotional and imaginary abilities into their behaviours,2 the act of buying and consuming still remains difﬁcult to understand. Consumers are said to be multiple, ﬁckle, disloyal, inconsistent, in short, real ‘chameleons’ who change to suit the circumstances, as some so neatly put it (Cova, 1996; Dubois, 1996). Strangely enough sensations, that is, the expression of bodies in contact with products, are largely neglected in these approaches. More precisely they are often considered either as an effect of products or as a result of individuals’ social or cultural characteristics. Yet agri-food professionals go a lot further than physico-chemical analyses and socio-demographic studies in their attempts to apprehend these impressions. They multiply the number of tasting sessions and create as many opportunities as possible for direct contact between consumers (or their representatives) and products throughout the design, production and...
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