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The appearance of food products influences our choices

The shape and packaging of a food product can change our perception of it and influence our desire to buy it or not, shows a recent study conducted at the Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS).

The research was conducted under the direction of Soumaya Cheikhrouhou, director of the Groupe de recherche en marketing sensoriel (MARS) at the School of Management of UdeS. The team conducted experiments to analyze the impact of a product’s appearance and the transparency of its packaging on the sensory evaluation of the product and the judgement of consumers.

The results were fascinating. In the first part of the study, 114 participants were shown a square or round food. Their reaction showed that they expected a sweeter and less bitter taste in the case of a round food and the opposite for an angular food. They therefore considered that the square-shaped food was probably better for their health than the same food in a round shape.

In a second experiment, 213 people shared their opinions about packaged foods with a transparent window in different places. When the window was at the bottom of the front of the packaging, people felt that the item was heavier than when it was at the top. Therefore, they believed that this package contained more of the product.

This study shows that while we cannot taste or handle a food product, we use our eyes to infer certain information such as the expected quantity or taste. These results have been presented in several publications and at scientific conferences. In addition to opening up new avenues of research in food marketing, they have led to collaborations with international researchers and to projects with companies including Avril Supermarché Santé.