Better understanding the possible link between basic tastes and certain shapes could help manufacturers to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Researchers have suggested that shape association could be incorporated in the labelling and packaging of food and beverage prdocuts ‘in order to subconsciously set up specific sensory expectation in the minds of consumers’.
Led by Dr Charles Spence fromt he University of Oxford, UK, the scientists published an article published in the journal Flavour that explained that consumers could reliably match a variety of tastes, flavours and oral-somatosensory attributes – such as carbonation, oral texture and mouthfeel – to abstract shapes varying in angularity.
‘For example, they typically match more rounded forms such as circles with sweet tastes and more angular shapes such as triangles and stars with bitter and/or carbonated foods and beverages. We believe that the targeted use of such shape symbolism may provide a means for companies to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace,’ comments Dr Spence.
The use of shape symbolism on product packaging seems to have the advantage that it can set up sensory expectations in the mind of the consumer whether or not they happen to be paying attention to the meaning of the shapes that they are exposed to.
However, the researchers admitted that, to capitalise on the effect for commercial application needs further studies ‘in order to demonstrate the potential implications of shape symbolism to marketing in the food and beverage sector’.