What makes a consumer prefer one beer brand over another? It’s all emotional, says new study

What influences a consumers’ preference for one beer brand over another? Sensory properties such as (flavour, aroma, and mouthfeel), packaging and advertising material and context (such as where the beer is drank, like at a party, bar, home, outdoors), according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists.

However the authors of the study say packaging cues have more emotional influence than sensory attributes on the consumer, but sensory attributes do play an important role. They say that packaging is particularly important because the beverage is often drunk straight out of the can or bottle.

“Extrinsic packaging cues such as the packaging itself, nutritional information, price and labeling generate consumer expectation. This is particularly pertinent for beer, as it is often poured from, served with, and sometimes even directly consumed from the bottle or can itself,” the authors say.

They add that beer makers face stiff competition and as a result, there is a need for them to differentiate their brands from others to gain competitive advantage.

The study was carried out by the Technical University of Madrid (Spain) and the University of Nottingham (UK). Ten lager beers that are commonly found in the UK were used for the study.

In the study, consumer likes and emotional responses to a set of beers were judged under three separate conditions: Liquid only, packaging only, and with both packaging and liquid.

The liquid only set enabled the response evoked by sensory properties to be measured, whereas the packaging condition allowed liking and the emotional response prompted by the packaging. Both liquid and packaging condition allowed the interaction of these two conditions to be evaluated.


The researchers found that showing a high alcohol content in packaging evoked a high emotional response, which could be either negative or positive, like ‘aggressive’ or ‘adventure.’

Nigerian beer brands

Nigerian beer brands

The study also found that beer packaging that showed a low alcohol by volume (ABV) content was found to prompt less strong emotions, such as ‘boring’ or ‘calm.’

In the sensory area, beers with a higher level of carbonation were found to evoke an increased ‘pleasantness’ of emotion. However, the sweeter the beer, the less engaging the emotional response was.

“From a sensory perspective, increasing carbonation was closely related to increasing pleasantness of emotion; whereas sweetness was associated with level of engagement – the sweeter the beer, the less engaging the emotional response, “the authors said.

“From a pack perspective, pleasantness of emotion was associated with familiarity of the product, whereas increasing alcohol content was associated with more engaging emotions.

“In the informed condition (both liquid and packaging), which mimics the consumption experience, pleasantness was still associated with carbonation, but sweetness and body, the latter being associated with alcohol content, were also shown to influence unpleasant emotions.

“Overall, packaging cues had a stronger influence on final product positioning in the emotional space, although for some beers, sensory properties were still most influential.

“In order to create the optional experience, it would appear prudent for the beer industry to align the positive emotional signature of the packaging with that of the sensory properties of the beer to create the optional consumer experience.

“As consumers are unable to try the product before purchase, the visual appearance of package design has the ability to generate, affect and create value and hence influence the consumption experience.

“The emotional signature associated with a product is becoming increasingly important for differential advantage, especially when products within the same category are often similar with respect to quality and price. In addition, emotions evoked by products also enhance the pleasure of buying, owing and consuming them.”

Source: Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists

‘Measuring the emotional response to beer and the relative impact of sensory and packaging cues’

C. Chaya; J. Pacoud; M. Ng; A. Fenton; J. Hort

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