Have you ever wondered how the way your product looks affects a consumer’s perception of its taste? According to Professor Charles Spence, the appearance of food and beverage products – the shape and colour – as well as the way they are consumed – and the setting in which food and beverages are consumed all affect perceived taste.
Spence is head of the Crossmodal Research Group at the University of Oxford, researching multisensory perception and consumer psychology. He has also consulted with food and beverage companies, foodservice chains and high-end restaurants. Writing in the November issue of the online peer-reviewed journal Flavour, Spence talks about shape symbolism and how our various senses perceive food. He shows, for instance, that rounder shapes convey more sweetness, while angular shapes taste more bitter. Even packaging and marketing can convey this perception, with round, flowing shapes used to advantage in logos for sweeter food and beverages.
Colours also influence our sense of taste and product quality, with darker, more saturated colours perceived as having more weight than paler colours. Our sense of smell and sound also influence taste perception. For example, high-pitched sounds work with sweet products, while low-pitched sounds highlight bitter products. Spence notes that even the heaviness, type and colour of plates and cutlery used influence our view of the food we consume.
It’s a fascinating area of work, and one that manufacturers should be investigating, especially as it potentially affects everything about a product, from research and development, to packaging and marketing efforts. Consider even how to leverage this information for potential use in the retail environment – with the help of your retail partners – to influence a purchase through in-store displays, music and education.