Sensory Nudges: The Influences of Environmental Contexts on Consumers’ Sensory Perception, Emotional Responses, and Behaviors toward Food and Beverages

A special issue of Foods (ISSN 2304-8158). This special issue belongs to the section "Sensory and Consumer Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2019) | Viewed by 76994

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Guest Editor
Department of Food Science, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, USA
Interests: chemosensory perception; multisensory interaction; sensory science; emotion science; neuro-psychophysiology; food choice; eating behavior; sensory marketing
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Eating and drinking serve as an apt illustration of multisensory interactions among sensory inputs from the five senses. Most sensory studies have focused on multisensory interaction within a food or beverage matrix. For example, researchers qualify and quantify individual sensory attributes perceived from specific food or beverage products in a standardized test condition, which has been useful in exploring the impact of attribute intensities on consumer acceptance for those products. However, there has been an increasing demand for research that reveals an understanding of consumer preferences for and behaviors with food and beverage products in real-life situations. The number of publications highlighting the impacts of the eating/drinking environment on sensory perception, food choice, and consumer behavior, has rapidly increased in the fields of sensory science, foodservice business, and culinary science. More specifically, it has been found that consumers’ sensory responses and reactions to food and beverage products vary with external sensory cues of eating/drinking environment, such as visual (interior, lighting, and table setting of eating/drinking location), auditory (ambient music, background music, and social communication), touch (surface materials of tableware items), and olfactory (ambient scent) cues. Moreover, recent studies are approaching this topic by using advanced techniques such as virtual reality immersion, eye-tracking systems, facial expression analysis, and mobile devices for scaling.

This Special Issue of Foods aims to introduce both original research and systematic reviews contributing to a deeper understanding of how sensory cues of environmental contexts modulate consumers’ sensory and emotional responses, food choice, and reactions to food and beverage products. Papers from interdisciplinary perspectives, such as sensory science, food and culinary science, nutrition, foodservice business and marketing, consumer behavior, psychology, and philosophy, will shed light on how sensory cues related to an eating/drinking environment can serve as “sensory nudges” that induce healthy eating and drinking with consumer satisfaction.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Han-Seok Seo
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Consumer preference
  • Eating behavior
  • Emotional response
  • Environmental context
  • Food choice
  • Multisensory interaction
  • Sensory nudge
  • Sensory perception

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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9 pages, 221 KiB  
Editorial
Sensory Nudges: The Influences of Environmental Contexts on Consumers’ Sensory Perception, Emotional Responses, and Behaviors toward Foods and Beverages
by Han-Seok Seo
Foods 2020, 9(4), 509; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9040509 - 17 Apr 2020
Cited by 30 | Viewed by 6360
Abstract
Food products with highly acceptable flavors are not always successful in the marketplace. Sales of identical food products sold in two different stores often differ. Patrons’ choices of specific menu items vary depending on menu designs at restaurants. Such examples suggest that consumer [...] Read more.
Food products with highly acceptable flavors are not always successful in the marketplace. Sales of identical food products sold in two different stores often differ. Patrons’ choices of specific menu items vary depending on menu designs at restaurants. Such examples suggest that consumer behavior related to eating, preparing, or purchasing foods and beverages is typically complex, dynamic, and sensitive. There is a growing body of evidence that environmental cues surrounding foods and beverages can modulate consumer perception and behavior in the context of eating and drinking. In light of increasing interest in environmental cues, this Special Issue was designed to introduce recent research that highlights how sensory cues derived from environmental cues can modulate consumer perceptions, emotional responses, and behavior related to foods and beverages. The eleven articles addressed in this Special Issue provide informative and insightful findings that may be applied to a wide range of food-related sites, including grocery stores, retail markets, restaurants, dining facilities, and public dining areas. The findings from these articles also suggest that product developers, sensory professionals, retailers, marketers, and business owners should consider not only sensory aspects of food products, but also sensory cues derived from surrounding contexts to better understand consumer perception, acceptability, and behavior toward their food products. Full article

Research

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14 pages, 1533 KiB  
Article
Olfactory Cues of Restaurant Wait Staff Modulate Patrons’ Dining Experiences and Behavior
by Asmita Singh, Thadeus L. Beekman and Han-Seok Seo
Foods 2019, 8(12), 619; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8120619 - 26 Nov 2019
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 4405
Abstract
Ambient scents at retail stores have been found to modulate customer perceptions and attitudes toward retail products and stores. Although ambient scent effects have also been observed in restaurant settings, little is known about the scent-related influences of restaurant wait staff on patron [...] Read more.
Ambient scents at retail stores have been found to modulate customer perceptions and attitudes toward retail products and stores. Although ambient scent effects have also been observed in restaurant settings, little is known about the scent-related influences of restaurant wait staff on patron perception and behavior. This study aimed to determine whether olfactory cues from restaurant wait staff can affect patrons’ dining experiences and interpersonal behavior with respect to menu choice, flavor perception, overall liking of meal items, meal satisfaction, consumption amount, and tip amount for wait staff. A total of 213 adults with no olfactory impairments were asked to select and consume one of four chicken meat menu items: baked, broiled, fried, and smoked chicken, in a mock restaurant setting, under one of the three most likely scents of wait staff: congruent (smoky barbecue scent), fragrance (perfume scent), and no scent (control) applied to fabric aprons of wait staff. The results showed that menu choice and flavor perception of chicken meat items did not differ in the presence of the three scent conditions. The effects of wait staff scents on overall liking of chicken meat items, meal satisfaction, and tip amount for wait staff were found to differ as a function of patron gender. Female patrons gave higher ratings of overall liking and meal satisfaction under the fragrance scent condition than under the no scent condition, while male patrons showed no effect with respect to overall liking and an opposite result in the meal satisfaction. Female patrons gave larger tips to wait staff under the congruent scent condition than under the no scent condition, while male patrons exhibited no effect. Patrons also were found to consume chicken meat items the least under the congruent scent condition. In conclusion, this study provides new empirical evidence that wait staff scents at restaurants can affect patrons’ dining experiences and interpersonal behavior and that the effects of such scents vary as a function of patron gender. Full article
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12 pages, 1066 KiB  
Article
Show Me More! The Influence of Visibility on Sustainable Food Choices
by Nicky Coucke, Iris Vermeir, Hendrik Slabbinck and Anneleen Van Kerckhove
Foods 2019, 8(6), 186; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8060186 - 31 May 2019
Cited by 25 | Viewed by 6620
Abstract
Visual cues are omnipresent in an in-store environment and can enhance the visibility of a product. By using these visual cues, policy makers can design a choice environment to nudge consumers towards more sustainable consumer behavior. In this study, we use a combined [...] Read more.
Visual cues are omnipresent in an in-store environment and can enhance the visibility of a product. By using these visual cues, policy makers can design a choice environment to nudge consumers towards more sustainable consumer behavior. In this study, we use a combined nudge of display area size and quantity of displayed products to nudge consumers towards more sustainable meat choices. We performed a field experiment of four weeks in a butchery, located in a supermarket. The size of the display area and quantity of displayed poultry products, serving as the nudging intervention, were increased, whereas these were decreased for less sustainable meat products. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of our nudging intervention, we also collected data from a control store and performed a pre-and post-intervention measurement. We kept records of the sales data of the sold meat (amount of weight & revenue). When conducting a three-way ANOVA and post hoc contrast tests, we found that the sales of poultry increased during the nudging intervention, but did not decrease for less sustainable meat products. When removing the nudge again, the sales of poultry decreased again significantly in the experimental store. Changing the size of display area and the amount of products displayed in this display area created a shift in the consumers’ purchase behavior of meat. Full article
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13 pages, 2311 KiB  
Article
Choosing from an Optimal Number of Options Makes Curry and Tea More Palatable
by Takuya Onuma and Nobuyuki Sakai
Foods 2019, 8(5), 145; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8050145 - 29 Apr 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3519
Abstract
Previous studies have shown that affording people choice increases their satisfaction with subsequent experiences: the choice effect. However, it remains unclear whether the choice effect occurs in the hedonic response to foods and beverages. Thus, the present study aimed to demonstrate the choice [...] Read more.
Previous studies have shown that affording people choice increases their satisfaction with subsequent experiences: the choice effect. However, it remains unclear whether the choice effect occurs in the hedonic response to foods and beverages. Thus, the present study aimed to demonstrate the choice effect on the palatability perception. Ready-to-serve curries and tea were presented as options in Experiment 1 and Experiment 2, respectively. Experiment 1 failed to demonstrate significant differences among palatability ratings for a curry chosen by participants and for a curry chosen by the experimenter. However, Experiment 2 demonstrated that participants perceived a tea chosen by themselves as more palatable than another tea chosen by the experimenter, regardless of the fact that the two cups of tea were identical. Intriguingly, the effect was obtained only when the number of options was neither too small nor too big. These results indicate that the exercise of choice from an optimal number of options, even when the choice is ostensible and illusory, makes people perceive their chosen foods and beverages as being more palatable. Some implications for the domain of food business are also discussed. Full article
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19 pages, 5741 KiB  
Article
Environmental Sounds Influence the Multisensory Perception of Chocolate Gelati
by Yi Hsuan Tiffany Lin, Nazimah Hamid, Daniel Shepherd, Kevin Kantono and Charles Spence
Foods 2019, 8(4), 124; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8040124 - 15 Apr 2019
Cited by 30 | Viewed by 7385
Abstract
Recently, it has been shown that various auditory stimuli modulate flavour perception. The present study attempts to understand the effects of environmental sounds (park, food court, fast food restaurant, cafe, and bar sounds) on the perception of chocolate gelato (specifically, sweet, bitter, milky, [...] Read more.
Recently, it has been shown that various auditory stimuli modulate flavour perception. The present study attempts to understand the effects of environmental sounds (park, food court, fast food restaurant, cafe, and bar sounds) on the perception of chocolate gelato (specifically, sweet, bitter, milky, creamy, cocoa, roasted, and vanilla notes) using the Temporal Check-All-That-Apply (TCATA) method. Additionally, affective ratings of the auditory stimuli were obtained using the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) in terms of their valence, arousal, and dominance. In total, 58 panellists rated the sounds and chocolate gelato in a sensory laboratory. The results revealed that bitterness, roasted, and cocoa notes were more evident when the bar, fast food, and food court sounds were played. Meanwhile, sweetness was cited more in the early mastication period when listening to park and café sounds. The park sound was significantly higher in valence, while the bar sound was significantly higher in arousal. Dominance was significantly higher for the fast food restaurant, food court, and bar sound conditions. Intriguingly, the valence evoked by the pleasant park sound was positively correlated with the sweetness of the gelato. Meanwhile, the arousal associated with bar sounds was positively correlated with bitterness, roasted, and cocoa attributes. Taken together, these results clearly demonstrate that people’s perception of the flavour of gelato varied with the different real-world sounds used in this study. Full article
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17 pages, 3090 KiB  
Article
Round Faces Are Associated with Sweet Foods: The Role of Crossmodal Correspondence in Social Perception
by Kosuke Motoki, Toshiki Saito, Rui Nouchi, Ryuta Kawashima and Motoaki Sugiura
Foods 2019, 8(3), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8030103 - 19 Mar 2019
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 5736
Abstract
In retail settings, social perception of other peoples’ preferences is fundamental to successful interpersonal interactions (e.g., product recommendations, gift-giving). This type of perception must be made with little information, very often based solely on facial cues. Although people are capable of accurately predicting [...] Read more.
In retail settings, social perception of other peoples’ preferences is fundamental to successful interpersonal interactions (e.g., product recommendations, gift-giving). This type of perception must be made with little information, very often based solely on facial cues. Although people are capable of accurately predicting others’ preferences from facial cues, we do not yet know how such inferences are made by crossmodal correspondence (arbitrary sensory associations) between facial cues and inferred attributes. The crossmodal correspondence literature implies the existence of sensory associations between shapes and tastes, and people consistently match roundness and angularity to sweet and sour foods, respectively. Given that peoples’ faces have dimensions characterized by roundness and angularity, it may be plausible that people infer others’ preferences by relying on the correspondence between facial roundness and taste. Based on a crossmodal correspondence framework, this study aimed to reveal the role of shape–taste correspondences in social perception. We investigated whether Japanese participants infer others’ taste (sweet/sour) preferences based on facial shapes (roundness/angularity). The results showed that participants reliably inferred that round-faced (vs. angular-faced) individuals preferred sweet foods (Study 1). Round-faced individuals and sweet foods were well matched, and the matching mediated the inference of other person’s preferences (Study 2). An association between facial roundness and inference of sweet taste preferences was observed in more natural faces, and perceived obesity mediated this association (Study 3). These findings advance the applicability of crossmodal correspondences in social perception, and imply the pervasiveness of prejudicial bias in the marketplace. Full article
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11 pages, 822 KiB  
Article
Environmental Immersion’s Influence on Hedonics, Perceived Appropriateness, and Willingness to Pay in Alcoholic Beverages
by Benjamin Picket and Robin Dando
Foods 2019, 8(2), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8020042 - 26 Jan 2019
Cited by 33 | Viewed by 5522
Abstract
The eating experience is multimodal. As we consume a dish, we perceive much more than that which initially activates the senses, including influences from our surroundings. Foods sampled in experimental settings are largely evaluated within a sensory booth, an environment designed to be [...] Read more.
The eating experience is multimodal. As we consume a dish, we perceive much more than that which initially activates the senses, including influences from our surroundings. Foods sampled in experimental settings are largely evaluated within a sensory booth, an environment designed to be devoid of such external or non-standardized stimuli, so that participants can focus solely on the sample itself. In natural experiences, we rarely consume food in such isolation—context is actually key to many dining experiences and can have an integral role in how we perceive the foods we eat. Using virtual reality to artificially provide this context, we tested how the setting in which a beverage was consumed influenced perception of two different samples. Virtual environments were formed by processing custom-recorded 360 degree videos and overlaying audio, text, and sensory scales to simulate a typical sensory evaluation. Participants were asked to taste two alcoholic beverages, a beer and a sparkling wine, in two virtual contexts, a bar and a winery. The results indicated that participants’ willingness to pay for, and overall enjoyment of the sparkling wine increased when placed in the winery context, with no change between the two virtual contexts for the beer sample. This occurred without alteration of the samples’ sensory properties or the ability of panelists to identify the beverage they were drinking; however, perceived appropriateness of the samples for the setting was strongly influenced by the context in which they were sampled, suggesting that perceived appropriateness for a surrounding may play a role in the degree to which we enjoy a food. Results provide further proof that artificially-applied context, such as that provided by virtual reality, can further the sensory testing of foods. Full article
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19 pages, 945 KiB  
Article
Multi-Sip Time–Intensity Evaluation of Retronasal Aroma after Swallowing Oolong Tea Beverage
by Naomi Gotow, Takanobu Omata, Masaaki Uchida, Naoyuki Matsuzaki, Sadaki Takata, Ippei Hagiwara and Tatsu Kobayakawa
Foods 2018, 7(11), 177; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods7110177 (registering DOI) - 25 Oct 2018
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 6436
Abstract
In most cases, a meal cannot be finished with a single bite and sip. During eating and drinking, consumers receive dynamic food perceptions from sensory attributes in foods. Thus, we performed multi-sip time–intensity (TI) evaluation of sensory attribute. In each of ten trials, [...] Read more.
In most cases, a meal cannot be finished with a single bite and sip. During eating and drinking, consumers receive dynamic food perceptions from sensory attributes in foods. Thus, we performed multi-sip time–intensity (TI) evaluation of sensory attribute. In each of ten trials, the participant evaluated continuously the intensity of retronasal aroma for 60 s after swallowing oolong tea. We compared the TI parameters (Imax: maximum intensity, Tmax: time point at which intensity reached the maximum value, AUC: area under the TI curve, Dplateau: duration between the first and last time points with values exceeding 90% of the maximum intensity, Rinc: rate of intensity increase between the first time points with values exceeding 5% and 90% of the maximum intensity, and Rdec: rate of intensity decrease between the last time points with values exceeding 5% and 90% of the maximum intensity) and TI curves among the ten trials, and approximated each TI curve with an exponential model. Some TI parameters (Imax, Tmax, AUC, and Rinc) differed significantly between the first and subsequent trials. The TI curve was significantly lower in the first trial than in the subsequent trials, and TI curve during the time from starting the evaluation to reaching maximum intensity was significantly lower in the second trial than in the subsequent trials. The time constant of the fitted exponential function revealed that the decay of retronasal aroma intensity was slightly faster in the second through fourth trials than in the first and the fifth through tenth trials. These results indicate that olfaction might be more perceptive while consumers sip a cup of the beverage. Full article
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16 pages, 844 KiB  
Article
“Seeing What’s Left”: The Effect of Position of Transparent Windows on Product Evaluation
by Gregory Simmonds, Andy T. Woods and Charles Spence
Foods 2018, 7(9), 151; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods7090151 - 13 Sep 2018
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 5172
Abstract
The position of design elements on product packaging has been shown to exert a measurable impact on consumer perception across a number of different studies and product categories. Design elements previously found to influence the consumer through their positioning on the front of [...] Read more.
The position of design elements on product packaging has been shown to exert a measurable impact on consumer perception across a number of different studies and product categories. Design elements previously found to influence the consumer through their positioning on the front of pack include product imagery, brand logos, text-based claims, and basic shapes. However, as yet, no empirical research has focused specifically on the relative position of transparent windows; despite the latter being an increasingly prevalent element of many modern packaging designs. This exploratory online study details an experimental investigation of how manipulating the position of a transparent window on a range of visually-presented, novel packaging designs influences consumer evaluations and judgements of the product seen within. Specifically, 110 participants rated 24 different packaging designs (across four product categories: granola, boxed chocolates, pasta, and lemon mousse; each with six window positions: in one of the four quadrants, the top half, or the bottom half) in a within-participants experimental design. Analyses were conducted using Friedman’s tests and Hochberg procedure-adjusted Wilcoxon Signed-Rank Tests. Window position was found to be a non-trivial element of design, with a general preference for windows on the right-hand side being evidenced. Significantly higher scores for expected product tastiness and design attractiveness were consistently identified across all product categories when windows were positioned on the right- vs. left-hand side of the packaging. Effects on the perception of powerfulness, overall liking, quality, and willingness to purchase were identified, but were inconsistent across the different product categories. Very few effects of window verticality were identified, with expected weight of the product not being significantly influenced by window position. The implications of these findings for academics, designers, and brand managers are discussed, with future research directions highlighted. Full article
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14 pages, 1269 KiB  
Article
See, Feel, Taste: The Influence of Receptacle Colour and Weight on the Evaluation of Flavoured Carbonated Beverages
by Line Ahm Mielby, Qian Janice Wang, Sidsel Jensen, Anne Sjoerup Bertelsen, Ulla Kidmose, Charles Spence and Derek Victor Byrne
Foods 2018, 7(8), 119; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods7080119 - 26 Jul 2018
Cited by 25 | Viewed by 8994
Abstract
A study was designed to assess whether the individual and combined effects of product-intrinsic and product-extrinsic factors influence the perception of, and liking for, carbonated beverages. Four hundred and one participants tasted samples of one of three flavours (grapefruit, lemon, or raspberry) of [...] Read more.
A study was designed to assess whether the individual and combined effects of product-intrinsic and product-extrinsic factors influence the perception of, and liking for, carbonated beverages. Four hundred and one participants tasted samples of one of three flavours (grapefruit, lemon, or raspberry) of carbonated aromatised non-alcoholic beer. The beverages were served in receptacles that differed in terms of their colour (red or black) and weight (lighter—no added weight, or heavier—20 g weight added). Each participant received the same beverage in each of the four different receptacles, and rated how much they liked the drink. They also evaluated the intensity of each beverage’s sweetness, bitterness, sourness, and carbonation. The results revealed a significant influence of the colour of the receptacle on perceived carbonation, with the beverages tasted from the red receptacles being rated as tasting more carbonated than when served in black receptacles. In terms of flavour, the participants liked the raspberry beverage significantly more than the others, while also rating it as tasting sweeter and less bitter than either of the other flavours. Furthermore, there was a more complex interaction effect involving the weight of the receptacle: Specifically, the perceived bitterness of the beverage moderated the relationship between the receptacle weight and the perceived carbonation. At high levels of bitterness, the drinks were perceived to be more carbonated when served from the heavier receptacle as compared to the lighter one. These findings highlight the complex interplay of product extrinsic and intrinsic factors on the flavour/mouthfeel perception and preference for beverages, and stress the importance of taking both internal product development and external packaging into account in the design of health-oriented beverages. Full article
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Review

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31 pages, 652 KiB  
Review
Hand-Feel Touch Cues and Their Influences on Consumer Perception and Behavior with Respect to Food Products: A Review
by Ragita C. Pramudya and Han-Seok Seo
Foods 2019, 8(7), 259; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8070259 - 15 Jul 2019
Cited by 42 | Viewed by 9966
Abstract
There has been a great deal of research investigating intrinsic/extrinsic cues and their influences on consumer perception and purchasing decisions at points of sale, product usage, and consumption. Consumers create expectations toward a food product through sensory information extracted from its surface (intrinsic [...] Read more.
There has been a great deal of research investigating intrinsic/extrinsic cues and their influences on consumer perception and purchasing decisions at points of sale, product usage, and consumption. Consumers create expectations toward a food product through sensory information extracted from its surface (intrinsic cues) or packaging (extrinsic cues) at retail stores. Packaging is one of the important extrinsic cues that can modulate consumer perception, liking, and decision making of a product. For example, handling a product packaging during consumption, even just touching the packaging while opening or holding it during consumption, may result in a consumer expectation of the package content. Although hand-feel touch cues are an integral part of the food consumption experience, as can be observed in such an instance, little has been known about their influences on consumer perception, acceptability, and purchase behavior of food products. This review therefore provided a better understanding about hand-feel touch cues and their influences in the context of food and beverage experience with a focus on (1) an overview of touch as a sensory modality, (2) factors influencing hand-feel perception, (3) influences of hand-feel touch cues on the perception of other sensory modalities, and (4) the effects of hand-feel touch cues on emotional responses and purchase behavior. Full article
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13 pages, 247 KiB  
Review
Complexity on the Menu and in the Meal
by Charles Spence
Foods 2018, 7(10), 158; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods7100158 - 27 Sep 2018
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 5183
Abstract
Complexity is generally perceived to be a desirable attribute as far as the design/delivery of food and beverage experiences is concerned. However, that said, there are many different kinds of complexity, or at least people use the term when talking about quite different [...] Read more.
Complexity is generally perceived to be a desirable attribute as far as the design/delivery of food and beverage experiences is concerned. However, that said, there are many different kinds of complexity, or at least people use the term when talking about quite different things, and not all of them are relevant to the design of food and drink experiences nor are they all necessarily perceptible within the tasting experience (either in the moment or over time). Consequently, the consumer often needs to infer the complexity of a tasting experience that is unlikely to be perceptible (in its entirety) in the moment. This paper outlines a number of different routes by which the chef, mixologist, and/or blender can both design and signal the complexity in the tasting experience. Full article
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