So, last year I became internet famous by having another article, entitled “The 5 Weirdest Things That Can Influence How Your Food Tastes“, published on Cracked.com. But, unbeknownst to everyone who isn’t reading this blog, there was actually a sixth entry on that list, regarding how shapes can also play havok on your taste buds. This bit, for reasons not explained to me, had to be cut; however, this doesn’t mean that I can’t show it to you here instead. Think of this as a deleted scene, if you will. Don’t say I don’t spoil you.
#6: The Shape of the Packaging
In the not-too distant past, food was a rather gory affair, filled with blood, guts and cyanide-flavoured kids sweets. For people back then, dinnertime wasn’t so much an event to be enjoyed as a family unit and more a chance to inadvertently re-enact the events at Jonestown, thanks to the decision by the manufacturers of your meatloaf to replace the ‘loaf’ aspect with a composite of asbestos dust and glass splinters. In fact, it could even be argued that this hasn’t changed very much nowadays, but hell if you’re going to find out via the advertising, which nonchalantly throws around meaningless bullshit buzzwords like ‘organic’ and ‘antioxidants’ and ‘probiotic’ like so much non-GM confetti; today, dinnertime just isn’t an event to be enjoyed as a family unit, it’s also an opportunity to give nature a massive hug.
It’s a world view that’s largely also represented in the packaging of each product. The makers know you’re not going to buy a certain brand of biscuit, no matter how cuddly-wuddly they’re portrayed in the adverts, if the packet looks like it was designed by somebody who hates design and colour co-ordination so much so that you’d think those concepts murdered his entire family when he was a kid. So, how do you make the packaging seem all friendly and harmonious and shit? Well, the first step for most is to make all of the corners rounder, because of the tendency for consumers to logically associate sharp corners with the potential of getting stabbed. However, there’s a side-effect to this that no-one thought of until only recently…
A 2007 study by researchers from Northwestern University and Stanford found that reducing the corner sharpness of certain foods’ packaging actually influenced how the product inside was thought to taste by consumers. The process for finding this out was very simple: they asked 224 college students to look at either a selection of rounded shapes or a selection of angular shapes, and then after this, asked them to evaluate how a sample of cheddar cheese tasted. The results of this double-blind test found that the people who studied the shapes with the sharp corners rated the cheese as tasting stronger, than those who studied the shapes with the rounded corners did.
The same result was even found in this study which asked shoppers at a German supermarket to describe what they expected a brand of yoghurt packaged in an angular tub to taste like, alongside also asking them to do the same thing with yoghurt packaged in a rounded tub. To the surprise of absolutely no-one, the yoghurt in the sharper container was thought to not only be nicer and stronger tasting, but was also expected to be way more expensive than the latter.
It could be argued that the tub with angled corners is more expensive to produce and, therefore, needs to be sold a higher price to cover this cost, but goddamnit. All you need to become rich and successful in this world is to sell shitty food in a box with semi-lethal corners? God, and again, damnit.
We’re onto you, you manipulative bastard