Food containers play key role in satisfying appetite and taste buds

The colour, components and make of a container can seemingly influence the satisfaction of the consumers in terms of taste and appetite, a recently conducted study has found. For instance, strawberry-flavoured mousse tastes 10% sweeter when served from a white container rather than a black one. Coffee tastes nearly twice as intense when it is drunk from a white mug rather than a clear glass one. Adding two-and-a-half ounces to the weight of a plastic yoghurt container makes the yoghurt seem about 25% more filling, as per the research.

Now, Adriana Madzharov, a sensory marketing researcher and assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, showed that when high self-control individuals touch food directly with their hands (vs. indirectly with a utensil), they not only experience it as tastier and more satisfying, but they eat more of it. The work, published in the Journal of Retailing, may not only offer a way to increase the appeal of food but also offers retailers a simple way to make the eating experience more enjoyable for consumers sampling food.

In her first experiment, Madzharov had 45 undergraduate students visually inspect and evaluate a cube of Muenster cheese, hold it before eating it and then asked them to answer questions about their eating behaviour. Half of the participants sampled a cheese cube with an appetizer pick on it and the other half sampled a cheese cube without a pick. In this second experiment, Madzharov separated a new set of 145 undergraduate students into two groups.

The first group was told to imagine that they had decided to be more careful with their diet and cut back on excessive eating in order to achieve their long-term objective of being fit and healthy. The second, that they had decided to worry less about their weight all the time and allow themselves to indulge in tasty foods more often in order to enjoy life and experience its pleasures. Madzharov found that when participants were primed with self-control (vs. indulgent) thinking, they evaluated the sampled food more positively when they touched it directly with their hands. It also suggests that the mechanism driving this effect was the enhanced sensory experience that participants reported in the direct touch/self-control condition.

Past research has explored, for example, how the weight and texture of containers and cups influence how people evaluate food of beverage and has confirmed that tactile input from cues external to the food is important. However, this is the first time that a direct touch of food has been evaluated as a way to influence how people experience food, and possibly drives consumer behaviour.

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