Posted at 28 November 2019

How the odor of pet food influences pet owners’ emotions:
A cross cultural study


Feeding time is one of the most important bonding moments between pet owners and their pet. During meal time, the pet owner evaluates the visual aspect, the texture and the odor of the pet food product. The objective of this pioneer study was to investigate the link between pet food odor and pet owners’ emotional response through cross-cultural research.


A comprehensive approach was used to evaluate the perception of the odors of kibbles by pet owners from 3 regions: France (Brittany), USA (Kansas), and La Réunion Island. Flavored kibbles were manufactured using variations of chicken flavors applied at different dosages in kibble coating. In total, 289 dog owners and 294 cat owners evaluated the odor of the kibbles in a central location test format. The questionnaire included overall odor liking, as well as emotional measurements using EsSence25 (Nestrud, Meiselman, King, Lesher, & Cardello, 2016). A descriptive sensory evaluation was conducted with an expert panel using Petscript™, a universal sensory language specifically designed to describe the odor of pet food (Delime, Schaefer, Tiitinen, Champion, & De Ratuld, 2017).


Results showed that olfactory profile and overall odor intensity could be modified by modulating flavor type and dosage. The emotions triggered by the odor of kibbles could discriminate products beyond liking. The odors ‘spicy’, ‘aromatic herbs like’, ‘yeast – bouillon like’, and ‘roasted chicken like’ were mostly associated with emotions related to activation, whereas ‘fatty – rancid’, ‘viscera like’ and ‘cereal like’ were mostly associated with emotions related to de-activation. Region had a significant effect on odor liking and emotional experience. In particular, American pet owners rated odor liking lower compared to France and La Reunion, and used more emotions related to displeasure to discriminate products.


This study demonstrated that pet food odor impacts pet owners’ emotions, and that culture could modify pet owners’ perception of pet food odor. Results could bring new insights to pet food manufacturers wishing to establish a strong positive brand image through the odor of their product by making pet meal time a unique experience.


Food Quality and Preferences - August 2019

Authors: Perrine Delime 1, Kadri Koppel 2, Pascal Pachot 1, Aurelie De Ratuld 1

1 Diana Pet Food, ZA du Gohélis, 56250 Elven, France

2 The Center for Sensory Analysis and Consumer Behavior, Department of Food, Nutrition, Dietetics, and Health, Kansas State University, 1310 Research Park Drive, 66502 Manhattan, KS, USA A"


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