Exploring Perceptions and Categorization of Virginia Hard Ciders Through the Application of Sorting Tasks

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Virginia Tech


Hard cider is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented apple juice. Its popularity has grown rapidly since the early 2000s and is expected to grow to a billion-dollar industry by 2022. However, unlike beer and wine, there are few popular resources and little scholarly research on the sensory attributes of ciders and how consumers perceive them. Thus, the purpose of this study was to categorize and describe the sensory and visual product attributes of ciders made in Virginia, USA using a rapid sensory evaluation method with untrained panelists known as a free sorting task. Specifically, panelists (N=65) first evaluated, sorted into groups, and described ciders (K=18). Then panelists (N=63) sorted photo sheets of cider labels and packaging according to how they expected the products would taste and at what occasion they would be most inclined to drink each cider. The data were analyzed with DISTATIS to produce compromise similarity maps, with bootstrapped confidence intervals to identify significant differences between products. Classical text analysis was used to evaluate the sensory descriptions used by assessors during the sorting task and project terms onto the similarity map. Panelists identified and described distinct sensory styles and attributes among the ciders evaluated. Consistent patterns in what occasion panelists might consume a cider emerged, providing a first-look into how cider might be valued based on packaging and label.



hard cider, rapid sensory analysis, packaging, consumer perceptions