How texture influences judgements of taste and wellbeing

A new UK study has revealed a direct link between the surface area of a product and its perceived healthiness.

20 January 2020

Anyone involved with food NPD in retail will tell you that, when creating a successful product, you have to go beyond simply making it taste nice. A whole host of factors come into play, ranging from aesthetics to nutritional content, with the modern-day consumer caring (and knowing) more about the food they purchase, and the effects different ingredients have on the body.

Texture is one of the big focus points, with a new UK study named Food Quality and Perception has directly linked consumer perceptions of health with the surface area and texture of food. And the results are quite unexpected.

Rough textures perceived as healthiest

The study, led by consumer psychologist Dr Cathrine Jansson-Boyd of Anglia Ruskin University, goes deeper into perceptions over the appearance of a product, using six nutritionally identical oat biscuits with different surface area textures.

Participants (88 of them) were given smooth, medium and rough textured biscuits and were asked to rate them on perceived healthiness. They were also asked to rate how likely they are to purchase the different biscuits based on their appearance and the expected tastiness, crunchiness and chewiness.

The study found that participants considered the biscuits with rough textures to be the healthiest, saying that the surface area “clearly communicated” to consumers how healthy a product was likely to be.

But, unexpectedly, the same participants said that they would be more likely to buy the biscuits with smoother textures because they were perceived to be tastier and crunchier.

In conclusion, the study says that there is an inverse relationship between health and taste, with purchase intent dictated, not by health, but by perceived tastiness.

“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,” said Dr Jansson-Boyd.

“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.”


Texture on top

According to Innova Market Research, 45% of US and UK consumers are influenced by texture when buying food and drinks.

Meanwhile, 68% share the opinion that textures contribute to a more interesting food and beverage experience.


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