Food manufacturers offer products with different textural properties to appeal to various consumer preferences. For instance, Ore-Ida offers many variations of French fries, such as the classic smooth Golden Fries and Golden Crinkles, and Keebler has introduced Chips Deluxe Soft and Chewy cookies as an alternative to their traditionally harder chocolate chip cookies. Along similar lines, when Burger King recently launched its new lower calorie French fries (labeled “Satisfries”), they gave these fries a rougher texture by making them crinkled (in comparison to the regular higher calorie fries which have a smooth surface texture). Not surprisingly, different types of foods with different textures and consistencies are often sold at school cafeterias.
In their forthcoming paper, to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers Dipayan Biswas, Courtney Szocs, Aradhna Krishna, and Donald Lehmann examine whether oral haptics (the scientific term for mouth-feel) influence calorie estimation, subsequent food choices, and overall consumption.
The results of their five experimental studies show that foods with soft (vs. hard) and with smooth (vs. rough) properties are perceived as higher in calories, even though the actual composition and calorie contents of the food items were kept constant. The authors term this as the OHCE (oral haptics – calorie estimation) effect.
Study participants who sampled rough textured foods subsequently preferred unhealthy food options to a greater extent when given the option to choose between a healthy and an unhealthy item.
The authors also found that when participants were not asked to mindfully estimate calories, there was higher consumption of brownies that were soft (vs. hard). However, when participants were asked to mindfully estimate calories, they consumed less of the soft brownies. That is, mindful calorie estimation led participants to consume fewer soft (vs. hard) brownies.
For school cafeterias, it might be important to note that there can be unintended consequences of a food’s haptic properties influencing calorie estimations, subsequent food choices, and consumption volume. For instance, children are likely to consume a higher volume of foods that are soft (vs. hard). However, if the children can be made to mindfully focus on the calorie aspects of the foods, then there will be lower volume of consumption with soft (vs. hard) food. In general, school cafeterias wanting to enhance volume of consumption of a particular food item might find it effective to have it served soft (vs. hard).
Biswas, Dipayan, Courtney Szocs, Aradhna Krishna, and Donald R. Lehmann (2014), “Something to Chew on: The Effects of Oral Haptics on Mastication, Orosensory Perception, and Calorie Estimation,” Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming.