The drivers of liking of lemon-lime carbonated beverages were investigated with regular and diet beverage consumers. Ten beverages were selected from a category survey of commercial beverages using a D-optimal procedure. Beverages were subjected to consumer testing (n = 101 regular beverage consumers, n = 100 diet beverage consumers). Segmentation of consumers was performed on overall liking scores followed by external preference mapping of selected samples. Diet beverage consumers liked 2 diet beverages more than regular beverage consumers. There were no differences in the overall liking scores between diet and regular beverage consumers for other products except for a sparkling beverage sweetened with juice which was more liked by regular beverage consumers. Three subtle but distinct consumer preference clusters were identified. Two segments had evenly distributed diet and regular beverage consumers but one segment had a greater percentage of regular beverage consumers (P < 0.05). The 3 preference segments were named: cluster 1 (C1) sweet taste and carbonation mouthfeel lovers, cluster 2 (C2) carbonation mouthfeel lovers, sweet and bitter taste acceptors, and cluster 3 (C3) bitter taste avoiders, mouthfeel and sweet taste lovers. User status (diet or regular beverage consumers) did not have a large impact on carbonated beverage liking. Instead, mouthfeel attributes were major drivers of liking when these beverages were tested in a blind tasting.
Practical Application: Preference mapping of lemon-lime carbonated beverage with diet and regular beverage consumers allowed the determination of drivers of liking of both populations. The understanding of how mouthfeel attributes, aromatics, and basic tastes impact liking or disliking of products was achieved. Preference drivers established in this study provide product developers of carbonated lemon-lime beverages with additional information to develop beverages that may be suitable for different groups of consumers.