When it comes to taste, science tells us that much of what we perceive as flavor is actually based on our sense of smell, rather than our taste buds. Inhaling the aroma of a fine glass of wine and smelling those perfectly seasoned burgers as you grill them, for example, are critical factors that help determine the flavors you pick up on your tongue when you take a sip or a bite.
But those aren’t the only two senses that can affect your perception of taste, according to an article by Nicola Twilley in The New Yorker last year. In her piece, Twilley cites the work of Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, who’s well known for his research on sensory perception of food.
Spence claims “that in most cases at least half of our experience of food and drink is determined by the forgotten flavor senses of vision, sound, and touch.”
This isn’t exactly breaking news, as many “marketers and packaging designers have arrived at many of Spence’s insights intuitively,” Twilley writes. But Spence’s work offers undeniable proof of just how much packaging can impact a person’s perception of taste.
“His lab has repeatedly shown that red, the usual color of a Coke can, is associated with sweetness; in one experiment, participants perceived salty popcorn as tasting sweet when it was served in a red bowl,” Twilley writes. Spence also has found that “coffee tastes nearly twice as intense but only two-thirds as sweet when drunk from a white mug rather than a clear glass one; that adding two and a half ounces to the weight of a plastic yogurt container makes the yogurt seem about twenty-five per cent more filling, and that bittersweet toffee tastes ten per cent more bitter if it is eaten while you’re listening to low-pitched music.”
According to Spence’s research, how a package looks (it’s color and patterns), how it feels (its texture and weight), and perhaps even how it sounds (the noise of a can or bottle being opened) have a definite, if subtle, influence on a person’s perception of how the food or beverage inside tastes.
Designing Packaging to Improve Taste
So how can food and beverage companies apply the knowledge gained from Spence’s research to their packaging strategies to improve the taste of their products?
For starters, consider carefully what effects your product’s packaging will have on a person’s senses. Think about how the shape, texture, and weight of the box will feel in your customer’s hands, how the colors and patterns on the box and product labels will draw the eye, and what noises will fill the ears when the box is opened.
In short, think about your product’s packaging as a multi-sensory sampling of the product itself—an appetizer designed to set the stage for the food or drink that’s about to be consumed.
PSI Group considers all of these factors when we create custom packaging solutions for our clients in the food and beverage industry.
Most recently, we’ve introduced a line of stock and customizable carriers, shippers, and retail packaging, including fillers and molds, for wine, beer, and liquor companies. “We want make sure your bottled goods arrive safely and in a style that appeals to all the senses,” says Jessi Knipe-Semler, Marketing & Graphics Manager for PSI.
For New Columbia Distillers, based in Washington D.C., we used artwork the company provided to us to create a two-color direct print box for shipping the company’s Green Hat Distilled Gin. By offering our support during the layout process, we were able to ensure smooth production of a box that reflects New Columbia Distillers’ distinctive brand and hints at the bold flavor of the company’s super-premium spirits.
PSI offered similar support to Trickling Springs Creamery when the Pennsylvania-based company came to us for label-wrapped butter sleeves. In both cases—with New Columbia Distillers’ boxes and Trickling Springs Creamery’s butter sleeves—we were able to help our clients transfer their already strong branding messages onto their product packaging.
The boxes we created recently for Stone Tower Winery, based in Leesburg, Virginia, were a bit more challenging: while opting for a simple, matte box, the winery also wanted the box to feature a simple, sleek embossed imprint. We were able to provide Stone Tower Winery with the simple, yet elegant packaging they wanted for shipping their high-end wines safely and efficiently.
Simplicity and safety also were key components of the boxes we created for Primal Palate Organic Spices last year. In this case, the minimalist design of the white packaging shines the spotlight on the vibrant colors of the organic spices and herbs, where it belongs.
When it comes to the food and beverage industry, PSI understands the role that the sight, touch, smell, and even the sound of packaging can play in your customer’s perception of flavor. Let us help you create packaging that can make your food or beverage products taste even better.