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Taste Exerts the Biggest Influence on People’s Food Choices

People ignored nutritional information in a study if they thought yogurt didn’t taste good and many believe that healthy foods don’t taste good…

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That means more needs to be done to make healthy foods appealing, the study authors said.

In the study, participants were presented with a variety of yogurts, each with different levels of sugar and fat. Even when given information about the ingredients, the participants were not more likely to select a healthier yogurt.

Unhealthy eaters were least likely to use information about ingredients when deciding which yogurt to choose, the investigators found.

However, both unhealthy and healthy eaters said taste was the main factor in their decision about which yogurt to select, and it could not be overcome by providing them with nutritional information, according to the published study.

Study authors Robert Mai and Stefan Hoffmann, of Kiel University in Germany, said in a journal news release that, "Despite a recent trend toward healthy eating behaviors, many consumers still tend to overconsume unhealthy foods because of two facts that work in combination."

"Unhealthy is widely associated with being tasty, and taste is the main driver of food decisions. There is little research on the conflict between healthiness and tastiness," the authors said.

"Policy planners must instead find ways to make healthy foods more appealing, by improving the actual taste as well as the packaging and marketing," they added.
Social campaigns that promote the sense that healthy eating is "cool" would also help, the team suggested.

"Overall, a holistic approach is urgently needed in which food companies, consumers and policy makers, instead of working against one another, manage to find mutually beneficial strategies to combat the world’s alarming obesity epidemic," the researchers concluded.

Practice Pearls:

  • Taste exerts the biggest influence on people’s food choices and many believe that healthy foods don’t taste good.
  • Unhealthy eaters were least likely to use information about ingredients.
  • Taste is the main driver of food decisions.

Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, news release, Jan. 21, 2015. Robert Mai and Stefan Hoffmann How to Combat the Unhealthy = Tasty Intuition: The Influencing Role of Health Consciousness. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing In-Press, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jppm.14.006