- Asian countries have become one of the largest export markets for US food
developers during the past decade. Understanding consumer expectations and needs in a
cross-cultural framework has gained importance for new products to succeed in the
international markets. A sports-drink, which is a functional drink for athletes, has been
successfully introduced in the US. The product is also growing in popularity
internationally. However, the concept and product sports-drink is relatively novel among
Asians. The overall objective of this study was to investigate cross-cultural consumer
acceptance and fundamental factors driving diversities in food acceptance using a sportsdrink
varied in sweetener concentration.
In the first part of the study, respondents (372) from Indonesia, Korea, Mainland
China, Taiwan, Thailand, and United States evaluated sports-drink samples at four
sweetener levels. Respondents' expected sensory characteristics, concept fitness,
functionality, and experience with twenty commercial beverages were also evaluated.
The results show that the optimal sweetness level for the sports-drink was lower for
Americans than Asians. The degree of increase in perceived sweetness intensity over
sweetener levels was greater among Americans than Asians. Also, there were
considerable cultural differences in expectations for various beverages. In addition,
experience with a product was another key factor affecting expectations.
Based on the results from the first part of the study, a model delineating the
processes of hedonic and intensity rating incorporating familiarity, concepts, and context
effect was developed. To investigate the significance of this model, expectations were
rated and sensory testing was carried out by modifying concepts and using different
contexts of beverages. People (256) from Mainland China, Indonesia, Korea, and United
States (US) participated in this experiment. The length of exposure to a sports-drink was
a key factor affecting the optimum sweetener level for a sports drink. Concept influenced
both expectation and taste rating of a sports-drink for the panelists who had been exposed
to the sports-drink longer. Less exposed panelists were only affected in their taste rating
by different concepts. When the concept was less acceptable, the acceptance rating of the
optimum sweetener sample was also lowered. US panelists had a different expectation for
a lemon-lime flavored beverage than did Asians. Ideal sweetness intensity ratings for
general beverages was a good predictor in determining for panelists' optimum sweetener
level for a sports-drink. Based on the model proposed, cross-cultural diversities in
sweetness preference were better understood.