Ottawa: Choosing smaller portions of food does not hamper the enjoyment of eating, finds a study.
“In fact, focusing on the pleasure of eating, rather than value for money, health, or hunger, makes people happier to pay more for less food,” said Pierre Chandon, the L’OrÃ©al Chaired Professor of Marketing, Innovation and Creativity at INSEAD Business School for the World, in France.
In their article, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, the researchers said the findings showed that people will choose smaller portions of chocolate cake when they are asked to vividly imagine the multisensory pleasure (taste, smell, texture) of similar desserts.
The researchers showed that unlike health warnings, this multisensory imagery does not reduce expected eating enjoyment or willingness to pay for the food.
They conducted five different experiments where 42 schoolchildren were asked to imagine — incorporating their five senses — the pleasure of eating, familiar desserts and were then asked to choose portions of brownies.
They naturally chose portions of brownies that were two sizes smaller than the portions chosen by children in a control condition.
In another experiment, they imitated high-end restaurants by describing a regular chocolate cake as smelling of roasted coffee with aromas of honey and vanilla with an aftertaste of blackberry.
This vivid description made 190 participants choose a smaller portion compared to a control condition where the cake was simply described as “chocolate cake”.
The study also had a third condition, in which people were told about the calorie and fat content of each cake portion. This nutrition information also led people to choose a smaller portion.
However, it reduced the amount that people were willing to pay for the cake compared to the multisensory condition.
A third study showed that people underestimated how much they will enjoy eating small portions of chocolate brownies. They expected to enjoy small portions less than larger ones, when actually both were enjoyed equally.
This mistake was eliminated by multisensory imagery, which made people better forecasters of their own future eating enjoyment. “Having more descriptive menus or product labels that encourage customers to use their senses can lead to positive outcomes for consumer satisfaction and health, but also for profits.
This could make for a more sustainable food industry, which struggles to grow in the face of today’s obesity epidemic,” said Yann Cornil, Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada.