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Head of Institute: Prof. Oren Tirosh

Administrative manager: Rakefet Kalev

Office Address:
Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition,
Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment,
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 
Herzl 229, Rehovot 7610001, ISRAEL

Tel: +972 - (0)8-9489385
Fax: +972 - (0)8-9363208
Email Address: rakefetk@savion.huji.ac.il

Harnessing Food Product Reviews for Personalizing Sweetness Levels

Abstract:

Sweet taste is innately appealing, ensuring that mammals are attracted to the sweetness of mother’s milk and other sources of carbohydrates and calories. In the modern world, the availability of sugars and sweeteners and the eagerness of the food industry to maximize palatability, result in an abundance of sweet food products, which poses a major health challenge. The aim of the current study is to analyze sweetness levels, liking, and ingredients of online reviews of food products, in order to obtain insights into sensory nutrition and to identify new opportunities for reconciling the palatability–healthiness tension. We collected over 200,000 reviews of  30,000 products on Amazon dated from 2002 to 2012 and  350,000 reviews of  2400 products on iHerb from 2006 to 2021. The reviews were classified and analyzed using manual curation, natural language processing, and machine learning. In total,  32,000 (Amazon) and  29,000 (iHerb) of these reviews mention sweetness, with 2200 and 4600 reviews referring to the purchased products as oversweet. Oversweet reviews were dispersed among consumers. Products that included sucralose had more oversweet reviews than average. 26 products had at least 50 reviews for which at least 10% were oversweet. For these products, the average liking by consumers reporting oversweetness was significantly lower (by 0.9 stars on average on a 1 to 5 stars scale) than by the rest of the consumers. In summary, oversweetness appears in 7–16% of the sweetness-related reviews and is less liked, which suggests an opportunity for customized products with reduced sweetness. These products will be simultaneously healthier and tastier for a substantial subgroup of customers and will benefit the manufacturer by expanding the products’ target audience. Analysis of consumers’ reviews of marketed food products offers new ways to obtain informative sensory data.

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