A study published in the journal Food Quality and Preference shows that the surface texture of food products may change consumers’ perceptions of the product and promote healthy eating.

The researchers gave participants six oat biscuits that were identical except for their surface texture—three had texture that was visually pronounced, while the remaining three had a texture that was not visually apparent to the participants. The surfaces were either smooth, medium, or rough and were rated on perceived healthiness. Additionally, the biscuits were rated on tastiness, likelihood of purchase, crunchiness, and chewiness—aspects that can affect consumer choice outcomes.

The researchers found that implicit surface textures affected perception more than explicit textured surfaces. “Specifically, perceived product healthiness was greater for medium textured implicit surfaces,” wrote the researchers. “Thus, it seems that food healthiness is influenced by cross-sensory cues.” Implicitly rough textures were found to be perceived as crunchier. In addition, researchers found that perceived tastiness increased as healthiness decreased, and therefore the likelihood of purchasing increased when perceived healthiness was low.

“The findings are really exciting as they give food manufacturers a means to design foods that can help consumers make healthier choices,” explained lead author Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), in a university press release. “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. 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.”

Abstract

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