The way in which people interact with food – including the utensils they choose – could affect how foods are perceived and enjoyed, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sensory Studies.
The researchers, from the University of Oxford in the UK and the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain, sought to find out whether consumers’ preference for a yoghurt brand changed according to the cutlery they used to eat it.
Fifty participants used either a stainless steel or a metallic plastic spoon to taste vanilla yoghurt, and the researchers found that they rated their liking for the yoghurt higher when they used the metal spoon. They also rated the quality of the yoghurt as higher when using the stainless steel utensil, although they rated flavour intensity higher when using the metallic-plastic spoon.
“These results are relevant to product development and to caterers and restaurateurs because different dishes (i.e., foodstuffs/ﬂavours) could be matched with different types of cutlery in order to increase convenience and, at the same, time potentially enhance the consumers’ eating experience,” the researchers wrote.
They suggested that the perceived quality of the utensil may be carried across into consumers’ perceived quality of the food, or that the temperature of the spoon may affect flavour perception.
They said that further research is necessary to pinpoint exactly why the difference in material may affect consumer perception.
“That said, the results reported here clearly provide preliminary evidence to demonstrate just how profound an effect a simple change in the material of a teaspoon can have on our perception of the food we eat with that piece of cutlery,” they wrote.
Another study from the same authors, published in the same journal, suggested that orange and dark-cream coloured cups enhanced the flavour, sweetness and aroma of hot chocolate.
“These results are relevant to sensory scientists interested in how the brain integrates visual input (such as colour), not only from the food itself, but also from the container, packaging or plateware from which it is being consumed,” they wrote.
Source: Journal of Sensory Studies
“Do the Material Properties of Cutlery Affect the Perception of the Food You Eat?”
Authors: Betina Piqueras-Fiszman and Charles Spence