As detailed in their study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research investigated the "situational appropriateness" of beers with varying degrees of familiarity.
It was anticipated that consumers would associate different beers with different usage contexts.
Through a series of consumer studies, the researchers identified a "two-dimensional product space that separated beers according to familiarity and beer styles."
"Familiar beers were primarily considered appropriate for refreshments and while attending sports events, while novel ones were perceived as more self-indulgent and appropriate for dining events and special occasion," said the study, published in the Food Quality and Preference journal.
To test their hypothesis, 266 consumers from the Auckland area were split into four study groups.
In each study, nine New Zealand-made beers were selected "to represent three different levels of familiarity" - low, medium, and high.
A questionnaire was designed using the name and image of each selected beer as stimuli.
For each beer image shown, consumers were asked to evaluate appropriateness for different contexts, including locations (e.g. home, at a restaurant), specific places within the location (e.g. in front of the TV), occasions (e.g. at a concert, sporting event), social surroundings (e.g. for guests, to impress someone), physiological processes (e.g. as a thirst quencher), and mental processes (e.g. as a treat).
Across the four studies, associations were "robust."
“A significant effect of familiarity on usage versatility was observed across all studies," said the study.
"Consumers perceived familiar beers to be appropriate for most uses and probably less context-dependent overall, while unfamiliar beers were more specifically tied to (fewer) specific usages.”
“This suggests that consumers may prefer familiar beers in most situations, or when they make ‘generic’ food provisioning decisions (e.g. stocking up on beers with no specific usage or occasion in mind).”
“Conversely, they may choose an unfamiliar beer as a response to the constraints of a more specific usage (e.g. to make a gift, as an alternative to wine for dinner, etc.).”
Source: Food Quality and Preference doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2014.06.012
Title: Situational appropriateness of beer is influenced by product familiarity
Authors: D Giacalone, M Bom Frost, W Bredie, B Pineau, D Hunter, A Paisley, M Beresford, S Jaegar.