During my time at University, I was involved in a taste panel which used identically sized, shaped and cooked meat products under different coloured lights. It showed that even though the products were identical within the limits available, that the flavour and texture ratings for the samples under blue, red and green lights were lower than those under white or natural light.
So even though the products were the same the light in which they are served and eaten significantly change what people think of them.
It was a fascinating test and really highlighted that we do eat with our eyes.
Recent research has gone one step beyond just lighting to show how perception impacts on our preferences.
It has shown that the texture of a sample may change the perceptions on whether a food is healthy or not.
The same recipe biscuit was presented in six different textures and it was found that essentially smoother textured foods were perceived to be tastier and therefore less healthy.
The study at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) was led by Consumer Psychologist Dr Cathrine Jansson-Boyd and involved 88 people tasting six oat biscuits. The samples were rated for healthiness, tastiness, crunchiness, chewiness, and pleasantness, as well as the likelihood of purchase based on the visual appearance only. The findings have been published in Food Quality and Preference.
Dr Jansson-Boyd said; “A sweet item, such as a biscuit, benefits from having an appearance as being less healthy as that increases the perception of tastiness and increases the likelihood of purchase. To guide healthier purchasing decisions, food producers can therefore look to use non-healthy-looking, smoother textures to overcome this perception that healthy is not tasty.”
The results showed that the perception of tastiness increased as healthiness decreased, and the likelihood of purchase increased with low healthiness and decreased with high healthiness.
The results are an eye opener and gives massive opportunities for producers of recognised healthy products to potentially increase the purchase and consumption of their products.
It has the potential to have a significant impact on the Product Development departments of healthy food companies.