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Good packaging design can make food taste better

Just what is the power of packaging? We may like to think we’re immune to its appeal, but our packaging experiment reveals the design tactics that persuade you to buy and even convince you food tastes better.

The continuing recession means that supermarkets have to compete even harder for your custom.

We’ve talked about how they can use psychological tricks in the store layout to make us spend more money.

But another way supermarkets do this is by using carefully designed packaging to influence customers’ perceptions of their products.

We wanted to find out whether supermarket food packaging actually makes a difference beyond just tempting you to put it in your basket – could it change your perception of how something tastes?

Putting food packets under the microscope

So, to test just how persuasive packaging can be, we asked two groups of people to taste chocolate chip cookies from the premium, standard and budget ranges available at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. But there was a twist – one group tasted and rated the cookies without seeing any of the packaging, whereas the other group were shown the packets beforehand.

Interestingly, the group that saw the packaging first rated the cookies as being tastier and scored them more highly overall (we also tested on appearance, smell and texture) than the group that just saw the cookies. Surprisingly, the group that ate the products blind still scored the cookies in the right order of premium, standard and budget.

So, our experiment shows that there’s certainly more to packaging than meets the eye – the packaging did improve the testers’ perception of the actual product. Do these findings surprise you, or are they what you would expect?

And have you ever been lured in by gorgeous packaging only to find that the product didn’t live up to what it said on the tin?

Comments
Guest
Di Tugwood says:
29 August 2012

I’ve just purchased a pack of 6 Muller light fat free yogurt.
On the front of the pack is a large picture of 2 pieces of cheesecake.
One would assume the contents would have a biscuit base or am I expecting too much here?
The contents were a running liquid with what the back of the package describes as ‘cake pieces’
These ‘ cake pieces’, the size of grains of rice turned out to be small pieces of raw dough.
Not good enough Muller, I will not be buying your products any more

Guest

My bugbear is the size of print. Lettering is so small that even with perfect eyesight it is impossible to read the labeling on many products. This even applies to cooking instructions on ready meals- ( to add insult to injury-cooking instruction are often placed on the bottom of the ready meal pack!)

Guest
Malc.Moore says:
29 November 2013

Dominic my answer is simple do not buy ready meals they are very expensive for what you actually get such small portions often high in fat.Its most annoying to see young mothers asking young children which ready meal do you want and i am talking toddlers who really do not know food value
health wise.It makes my blood boil that so many parents do not care what there children eat.One goes into some supermarkets like Aldi and parents fill baskets of biscuits it fills the kids up you hear parents talking to each other and ready meals for toddlers that’s disgusting this is why many are ending up in GP s surgeries they are being fed worse than the family’s pets cat or dog.

Guest
Ian Macsporran says:
25 September 2012

I was reading “Supermarket packaging tactics exposed” (Which? Sep 2012) when we opened two cans of Tesco plum tomatoes for lunch. One can was the old packaging (Tesco Value) and one was the new (Tesco Everyday Value). Same contents but the calories contained have changed! 34 calories per half-can in the old; 37 calories per half-can in the new. Still “peeled plum tomatoes in tomato juice”!

The translations into foreign languages have disappeared from the label. Old packaging had translations into Polish, Czech, Slovak and Magyar. New packaging has none. As a member of the generation who thought it learned French from HP Sauce labels (“Cette sauce est un melange …”) I miss this. Tomatoes = pomidory (Pol), Rajcata (Cz), Rajcaki (Sk) and Paradicsom (Hun). Ah well!

Guest
Malc.Moore says:
29 November 2013

To-day in Iceland I saw 8 chicken Breaded Brest steaks they looked great for £2.00 nice expensive photo plastic bag i turned to read actual ingredients only 54% of the 680grms was actually chicken.
That s why mums go to Iceland they are conned by the expensive package but poor quality item.I do buy a little from Iceland but i am very selective.If only our MPs would improve legislation on labelling it might make supermarkets spend less on fancy photographic packaging and generally improve the nations health.I would welcome any supermarket break the ranks offer simple clear packaging with easy read labelling.I am sure it would not harm there profit margins if they spent less on fancy packaging.Young s Chicken Brest Steaks in Batter £2.50p for only 510grms more for less again fancy packaging and only 54% actual chicken.