Quantifying Food Texture Selectivity of Children Through Conjoint Analysis

Research poster
Amy Andes
Christopher T. Simons
Department of Food Science and Technology

Selective (picky) eating at an early age is very common. Food refusal due to certain sensory characteristics of a food, namely texture, can lead to inadequate intake of nutrients and a limited list of acceptable foods. This research set out to quantitatively measure selective eating in regard to food textures by the use of adaptive choice-based conjoint analysis. Two populations of children aged 8-12 were identified by a parent as either non-picky (n=30) or picky eaters based on texture (n=19). Hierarchical Bayes theorem was used to calculate utilities of 30 texture attributes and importance scores of 8 overarching categories to which attributes were assigned. Four metrics were identified to quantify pickiness: number of unacceptable attributes chosen, number of times a person selected a group of food textures as "a possibility" (meaning they were acceptable), the None utility score calculated from the groups of food textures chosen as "not a possibility", and the importance scores- which demonstrated the relevance of each category. On average, the non-picky children chose fewer attributes as unacceptable and had a lower None utility than the picky children (p=0.046 and p=0.0090, respectively). Similarly, there was a trend for non-picky children to identify more model foods as being "a possibility" (p=0.060). Unevenness in importance scores illustrated which categories drive food choices. The use of conjoint analysis allowed for the differentiation between picky and non-picky eaters on the basis of texture preferences. This research has the opportunity to provide insight to parents on what foods to provide or to avoid feeding their child.