Can Packaging Affect Taste?

Can Packaging Affect Taste?

13 December 2016

Packaging plays a very important role in keeping food and drinks safe, from factory to consumer. It is also an essential element in marketing – the more visually appealing it is, the more likely consumers are to purchase the product. After all, first impressions are everything, as if a product does not stand out on the shelf, it will not sell.

Packaging design, however, does more than this. The way food and drinks are packaged can influence the way people perceive taste.

Wine and beer specialists argue that packaging different beverages in different bottles – as well as serving them in different glasses – can affect their flavour. This means that Pinot Grigio or Cabernet Sauvignon would not taste the same if it was served in a mug instead of in the appropriate glass.

Coco-Cola is a prime example of how the perception of taste is affected by packaging design. The company changed its world-renowned red can to a white-coloured packaging with white polar bears in 2011 – the first time in 125 years that their trademark colour was modified. These special edition cans were intended to raise funds for the endangered polar bear.

However, customers began complaining about the taste of the beverage, assuming Coca-Cola had changed its formula along with its aesthetics. The brand eventually had to revert back to red again, although they kept the image of the polar bears.

Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, believes that this is just one example of how packaging can change perceptions of taste.

He became interested in this case and explored the phenomenon by conducting an experiment in which popcorn was served in different coloured bowls. Participants in the study perceived salty popcorn as sweeter when placed in a red bowl. This colour, therefore, was associated with sweetness, which further proved Coca-Cola’s failed packaging.

These findings mean that designers and manufacturers should focus on designing even more aesthetically appealing packaging to improve the taste of their products. Carefully considering how packaging will affect the consumer’s senses is critical, such as understanding the effect that colours and patterns can have. It is not only important to consider whether a particular packaging will draw attention, but also consider how the customer will feel towards the product after it has been opened or when it is being consumed.

The connection between packaging and taste cannot be ignored or underestimated, as packaging sets up expectations for the product’s flavour. Whether this is intentional or not, it does not matter, as the effect is the same. The outside of a product can persuade customers to purchase it, and can also enhances their perception of its taste.

Product manufacturers and retailers need to be conscious of this relationship and how it affects human psychology. By taking advantage of this, manufacturers can encourage consumers to buy, creating the positive results they are looking for.

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