Abstract: Classical detection thresholds do not predict liking, as they focus on the presence or absence of a sensation. Recently however, Prescott and colleagues described a new method, the rejection threshold, where a series of forced choice preference tasks are used to generate a dose-response function to determine hedonically acceptable concentrations. That is, how much is too much? To date, this approach has been used exclusively in liquid foods. Here, we determined group rejection thresholds in solid chocolate-flavored compound coating for bitterness. The influences of self-identified preferences for milk or dark chocolate, as well as eating style (chewers compared to melters) on rejection thresholds were investigated. Stimuli included milk chocolate-flavored compound coating spiked with increasing amounts of sucrose octaacetate, a bitter and generally recognized as safe additive. Paired preference tests (blank compared to spike) were used to determine the proportion of the group that preferred the blank. Across pairs, spiked samples were presented in ascending concentration. We were able to quantify and compare differences between 2 self-identified market segments. The rejection threshold for the dark chocolate preferring group was significantly higher than the milk chocolate preferring group (P= 0.01). Conversely, eating style did not affect group rejection thresholds (P= 0.14), although this may reflect the amount of chocolate given to participants. Additionally, there was no association between chocolate preference and eating style (P= 0.36). Present work supports the contention that this method can be used to examine preferences within specific market segments and potentially individual differences as they relate to ingestive behavior.
Practical Application: This work makes use of the rejection threshold method to study market segmentation, extending its use to solid foods. We believe this method has broad applicability to the sensory specialist and product developer by providing a process to identify how much is too much when formulating products, even in the context of specific market segments. We illustrate this in solid chocolate-flavored compound coating, identifying substantial differences in the amount of acceptable bitterness in those who prefer milk chocolate compared to dark chocolate. This method provides a direct means to answer the question of how much is too much.