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18 Jul 2011

Change Taste without Changing Anything about the Food

This post is similar to my previous post about changing the message by how people feel about the messenger. In the case of food, you can alter the taste of it by altering how people feel about the food.

One way is to alter how you describe the food. Apparently, PepsiCo is conducting extensive research here.* For instance, they are running “fMRI studies to test the hypothesis that calling a product ‘healthy’ may lower taste expectations in the brain.” They also use cameras to record these tests because “what people say about the way something tastes is a lot of times not what they really are thinking.” This latter point reinforces an earlier post that people often are not aware of what influences them.

For instance, in addition to the way we describe food, we can indirectly alter food’s taste by changing the:

  • Presentation of the food: how it’s delivered and how it looks on the plate
  • Ambiance of the eating environment, whether it’s clean or dirty for instance
  • People with whom the eater is dining such as good friends or co-workers
  • Food’s price; people will tend to feel expensive food tastes better
  • Silverware, plates and other utensils with which to serve and eat the food
  • Packaging of the food; beverages are a prime example of the importance of this

Even though cooking professionals and restaurateurs are emphatic about these, very few people would agree. They would refer to objective factors such as length of cooking time, seasoning, sauces, saltiness, etc. As PepsiCo discovered people don’t do a good job of attributing what really influences them.

From a problem-solving perspective, knowing these indirect ways of influencing people opens the door to a vast range of potential solutions for simple, everyday problems.


*John Seabrook, “Snacks For A Fat Planet,” The New Yorker, p. 65, May 16, 2011 [Note: Link does not provide complete access to this article because of subscription restrictions.]


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