The overall aim of the Food for Seniors project was to develop enjoyable meals in convenient packages for senior consumers. The views of the seniors were in central role throughout the project. By far the only trained sensory panel in the world consisting of senior members was established in the project.
Based on surveys among senior consumers it became evident that the current ready meals are generally not appreciated by seniors. There were seen deficiencies both in foods and packages. There also seems to be a strong desire among seniors to prepare their food by themselves or at least fine-tune them.
Model meals were developed for senior consumers. The taste and texture of the meals were modified as well as the nutritional properties. The sensory properties of the model meals were studied by sensory evaluation and preference mapping. Senior consumers preferred a texture of food being between soft and semi-hard in hardness meaning that there has to be some challenge in the texture but not too much. Seniors preferred salty food. However, they evaluated spicy food as being more salty than less spicy salty food. This indicates that the salt content of food could be to some extent compensated by using spices.
There are various properties in current food packaging that could be enhanced to better meet the needs of seniors. Special attention should be paid for the convenience of use: easiness of opening the packaging and portioning out the food, the possibility to re-seal the packaging, the clarity of the information, easiness of recognize the product, tempting packaging design and various portion sizes for different needs.
Food for Seniors (2011–2014) was a project, coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, National Consumer Research Centre being the other research partner. The industrial platform of the project consisted of 10 enterprises: four food companies, three catering companies, two packaging companies and one market research company participated. The project was financially supported by Tekes- the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.
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