Special Issue "How Visuals Affect Food Choice?"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Iris Vermeir
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of marketing, innovation & organization, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Interests: environmental sustainable consumption; consumer psychology; food consumption; behavioral economics; attitude-behavioral gap

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Every day, consumers are faced with a multitude of decisions on food consumption ranging from choosing a particular, for example a healthy or sustainable option regarding how much to eat. Much of the information consumers use to make these decisions is predominantly visual in nature. Product design elements like color, the size and shape of products and product packaging, decision context elements like shelf and window displays, and advertising elements like pictures and logos serve as a significant communication tools affecting outcomes like consumer attention, quality perception, attitudes, preferences, product adoption, and word of mouth. The number of publications highlighting the impact of these visual elements has rapidly increased in the field of food marketing using a variety of measurement tools like surveys, behavioral observation and neurophysiological measurement. However, there has been an increasing demand for research that reveals an understanding of why these visual elements affect consumer outcomes. The purpose of this Special Issue is to add to the growing body of literature by further deepening the understanding of which visual elements influence customer outcomes and why these effects occur. The research could propose novel theories on how food choice can be affected by visual elements or test if and/or why particular visual elements affect food choice.

Prof. Dr. Iris Vermeir
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

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Keywords

  • Consumer preferences
  • Food choice
  • Emotional response
  • Choice context
  • Product design factors
  • Advertising
  • Visual perception

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
How Visuals Affect Food Choice
Foods 2020, 9(12), 1835; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9121835 - 10 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 479
Abstract
In this Special Issue, we bring together nine original research articles that demonstrate how visual cues affect consumer reactions that drive food decisions [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)

Research

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Article
Visual Cultural Biases in Food Classification
Foods 2020, 9(6), 823; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9060823 - 23 Jun 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1366
Abstract
This article investigates how visual biases influence the choices made by people and machines in the context of online food. To this end the paper investigates three research questions and shows (i) to what extent machines are able to classify images, (ii) how [...] Read more.
This article investigates how visual biases influence the choices made by people and machines in the context of online food. To this end the paper investigates three research questions and shows (i) to what extent machines are able to classify images, (ii) how this compares to human performance on the same task and (iii) which factors are involved in the decision making of both humans and machines. The research reveals that algorithms significantly outperform human labellers on this task with a range of biases being present in the decision-making process. The results are important as they have a range of implications for research, such as recommender technology and crowdsourcing, as is discussed in the article. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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Article
The Effect of an Evaluative Label on Consumer Perception of Cheeses in Hungary
Foods 2020, 9(5), 563; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9050563 - 02 May 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1102
Abstract
Traditional strategies (such as education, economic incentives or prohibitions) targeted at altering dietary habits only influence health-conscious consumers. Less health-conscious consumers are less capable of self-regulatory behavior, therefore they are more likely to be influenced through perception. The present study aimed to examine [...] Read more.
Traditional strategies (such as education, economic incentives or prohibitions) targeted at altering dietary habits only influence health-conscious consumers. Less health-conscious consumers are less capable of self-regulatory behavior, therefore they are more likely to be influenced through perception. The present study aimed to examine how external cues such as labeling affect the consumer’s perception of foods. The paper includes a case study based on an experiment. In the experiment the same cheese was tested with four different types of labeling (labeled “conventional”, “low salt”, “low fat” and “low salt and low fat”). It was found that the health halo effect worked in the case of cheese testing. In spite of all the samples being identical, the healthy samples were associated with considerably less sensory pleasure. The use of labels by the producers resulted in exactly the opposite effect to that intended. The experiment confirmed the efficiency of the application of this type of behavior-oriented nudge. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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Article
Assessing the Influence of Visual-Taste Congruency on Perceived Sweetness and Product Liking in Immersive VR
Foods 2020, 9(4), 465; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9040465 - 09 Apr 2020
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2135
Abstract
This study was designed to assess whether the combined effect of taste-congruent and incongruent extrinsic visual cues presented in virtual reality (VR) influences the perception of sweetness and product liking. Three VR environments (sweet-congruent, sweet-incongruent, and neutral) were created based on the evidence [...] Read more.
This study was designed to assess whether the combined effect of taste-congruent and incongruent extrinsic visual cues presented in virtual reality (VR) influences the perception of sweetness and product liking. Three VR environments (sweet-congruent, sweet-incongruent, and neutral) were created based on the evidence in existing literature. Participants tasted the same beverage in three VR environments and evaluated the environment and beverage liking, as well as perceived taste intensity (sweetness, sourness, and bitterness), congruency, comfort, and environment vividness. Frontal EEG alpha asymmetry (FAA) was also recorded as a complementary physiological measurement of overall liking. The results showed that the perceived sweetness of the beverage was significantly elevated in a sweet-congruent environment versus the other environments. Visual-taste congruency did not seem to have an effect on beverage liking and overall liking, whereas an increase in environment liking was found in the incongruent environment versus the other environments. These findings confirmed the significant influence of taste-specific visual cues on flavour perception, while the successful use of VR in the study provided insight into future applications of taste-specific VR environment in the modulation of flavour perception and sugar reduction. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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Article
Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees: The Impact of Multiple Labelling on Consumer Choices for Olive Oil
Foods 2020, 9(2), 186; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9020186 - 13 Feb 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1053
Abstract
Multiple quality labels that signal whether a particular food has special characteristics relating to geographical origin or production method have become standard within European food policy. The aim of this paper was to investigate how two of these labels in particular influence consumers’ [...] Read more.
Multiple quality labels that signal whether a particular food has special characteristics relating to geographical origin or production method have become standard within European food policy. The aim of this paper was to investigate how two of these labels in particular influence consumers’ food choices. We assessed consumers’ preferences for an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) displaying EU quality labels and focus on whether they are complements or substitutes. In order to do so, we used a discrete choice experiment (DCE) to estimate main and two-way interactions effects with data from a self-administrated survey in a Spanish region. Results indicate that while consumers positively value both the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and the organic labels, the valuation for PDO is almost double that of the valuation of the organic label. Furthermore, the findings show that for a majority of consumers considered both labels substitutes, while a small group considered them complements. These findings can help producers identify an optimal labelling strategy to maximize returns on certification investments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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Article
Beyond Healthiness: The Impact of Traffic Light Labels on Taste Expectations and Purchase Intentions
Foods 2020, 9(2), 134; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9020134 - 28 Jan 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1794
Abstract
The aim of traffic light labels on food products is to help consumers assess their healthiness. However, it is not clear whether traffic light labels do not have undesired side effects by signaling lower tastiness of healthy product alternatives and reducing purchase intentions. [...] Read more.
The aim of traffic light labels on food products is to help consumers assess their healthiness. However, it is not clear whether traffic light labels do not have undesired side effects by signaling lower tastiness of healthy product alternatives and reducing purchase intentions. We therefore conducted a study with consumers from Austria (N = 173) in which we presented the amount of sugar contained in products on labels with or without traffic light colors based on the coding criteria of the UK Food Standards Agency. Expectations of products’ healthiness and tastiness, as well as purchase intentions were assessed. The products were randomly sampled from the category of desserts from a supermarket. The declared amount of sugar was experimentally varied. The traffic light labels helped participants differentiate between the healthiness of products with different sugar levels. They did not affect the expected tastiness of the healthier alternatives. Moreover, participants did not report lower purchase intentions for products high in sugar, but a higher purchase intention for products low in sugar when traffic light colors were used compared to when they were not used. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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Article
Fats are Glossy but Does Glossiness Imply Fatness? The Influence of Packaging Glossiness on Food Perceptions
Foods 2020, 9(1), 90; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9010090 - 15 Jan 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1551
Abstract
This research brings together two research streams, one focusing on the influence of a diverse set of packaging attributes (e.g., shape, size, color, etc.) on perceptions of packaged food and the second one on the up- and downsides of using glossy materials, which [...] Read more.
This research brings together two research streams, one focusing on the influence of a diverse set of packaging attributes (e.g., shape, size, color, etc.) on perceptions of packaged food and the second one on the up- and downsides of using glossy materials, which are often studied in a non-food context. The current research deals with the influence of glossy (versus matte) food packages on consumers’ perceptions of the food inside the package. With one online survey and one quasi-experiment, we show that consumers draw inferences on the food’s fat level from the package surface, in that glossy packages are seen as a signal of fatness. This association is specific; consumers do not associate glossiness with every unhealthy product aspect. Sugar levels are unaffected by the package surface. However, due to the higher inferred fat level, a product in a glossy package is perceived to be less healthy, less tasty, and low in quality and product expensiveness. Thus, these findings suggest that glossy (versus matte) food packages mainly serve as a signal of negative product qualities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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Article
Healthy Advertising Coming to Its Senses: The Effectiveness of Sensory Appeals in Healthy Food Advertising
Foods 2020, 9(1), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9010051 - 05 Jan 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2970
Abstract
With increasing obesity rates and the daily overload of unhealthy food appeals, an important objective for advertising today is to promote healthy food consumption. According to previous research, sensory food advertisements referring to multiple senses—a combination of visual (sight), tactile (touch) and olfactory [...] Read more.
With increasing obesity rates and the daily overload of unhealthy food appeals, an important objective for advertising today is to promote healthy food consumption. According to previous research, sensory food advertisements referring to multiple senses—a combination of visual (sight), tactile (touch) and olfactory (smell) cues—evoke more positive sensory thoughts and, therefore, higher taste perceptions than advertisements referring to a single sense (e.g., only taste cues). However, this research only focused on sensory advertising for unhealthy food. The current research investigates how sensory advertising can promote healthy food. While multiple-sense ads for unhealthy food were shown to be more effective than single-sense ads, we find that, for healthy food, single-sense ads increase taste perceptions and advertising effectiveness compared to multiple-sense ads. In two laboratory experiments, we show a different underlying process for this effect—that is, single-sense ads evoke fewer negative thoughts than multiple-sense ads, which mediates the effect of single-sense versus multiple-sense ads on taste perceptions and advertising effectiveness. Moreover, we show that these effects occur not only for verbal ads but, importantly, also for visual ads, which are omnipresent today. This article closes with implications for theory and suggestions for food marketers, ad executives, and public policy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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Review

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Review
Visual Design Cues Impacting Food Choice: A Review and Future Research Agenda
Foods 2020, 9(10), 1495; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9101495 - 19 Oct 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2109
Abstract
This review aims to tackle the challenge of understanding how visual design cues can affect behavioural outcomes in a food context. The review answers two key questions: (1) What are the effects of the most important visual design cues on behavioural outcomes and [...] Read more.
This review aims to tackle the challenge of understanding how visual design cues can affect behavioural outcomes in a food context. The review answers two key questions: (1) What are the effects of the most important visual design cues on behavioural outcomes and how can they be explained? (2) What are the research gaps in this area? We start from a comprehensive taxonomy of visual design cues delineating the most important visual design cues. Next, we evaluate the extant research based on a structured, narrative literature review on visual design cues in the food domain. We differentiate between object processed and spatially processed visual design cues in food choice contexts and show how they affect behavioural outcomes through a range of psychological processes (attention, affective-, cognitive- and motivational reactions, food perceptions and attitudes). We end with recommendations which take into account the current food store context, the state-of-art in measuring psychological processes and behavioural outcomes and the specific food-, person- and context-related moderators. This review offers guidance for research to untangle the complexity of the effect of visual design cues in a food choice context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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Other

Brief Report
The Snacking Chameleon: Psychological Proximity Increases Imitation of Food Intake Independently of Brand Choice
Foods 2020, 9(2), 228; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9020228 - 21 Feb 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1127
Abstract
Observing other people snacking can affect one’s own consumption behavior. The present experiment tested whether temporal distance moderates imitation of brand choice and the number of snacks consumed. Based on previous research demonstrating that psychological distance (e.g., temporal or spatial distance) reduces imitation [...] Read more.
Observing other people snacking can affect one’s own consumption behavior. The present experiment tested whether temporal distance moderates imitation of brand choice and the number of snacks consumed. Based on previous research demonstrating that psychological distance (e.g., temporal or spatial distance) reduces imitation of movements, we hypothesized that participants would imitate the amount of food intake to a lesser degree when they temporally distance themselves from a model person. To test this idea, participants (n = 113) were asked to imagine their life either the next day (proximal condition) or in one year (distant condition). Next, participants watched a video clip depicting a model person who chose one of two brands of pretzels and ate either plenty or just a few of the pretzels. Then, participants chose one of the two brands of pretzels, served themselves as many of the pretzels as they liked, and ate them while filling in a tasting questionnaire. As expected, participants primed with proximity imitated snack intake more than participants primed with distance. The brand choice was not affected by self-distancing. Implications for snacking behavior are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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Brief Report
Impact of Common Food Labels on Consumer Liking in Vanilla Yogurt
Foods 2019, 8(11), 584; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8110584 - 17 Nov 2019
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1613
Abstract
As competition on super market shelves is higher than ever, the importance of product concepts, communicated through labels, can dictate a product’s success or failure. However, it is possible for labels to affect a consumer’s experience, changing the overall response to the product. [...] Read more.
As competition on super market shelves is higher than ever, the importance of product concepts, communicated through labels, can dictate a product’s success or failure. However, it is possible for labels to affect a consumer’s experience, changing the overall response to the product. In this study, we tested samples of vanilla yogurt with one of four commonly used labeling concepts (high-protein, low-fat, made with stevia and all-natural) on sensory perception, consumer liking, expected consumption amount, and willingness to pay (WTP) in a consumer test (n = 108). Each participant evaluated five samples of the same vanilla yogurt identified with one of the labels, or an unlabeled control. Results showed panelists liked the samples labeled with low-fat and high-protein to the greatest degree, with all-natural scoring the lowest. Those more concerned with protein content found the samples less satiating, dependent on sex. Sweetness was also perceived more highly in younger panelists, with panelists WTP dependent on their liking of the labels. Results highlight the importance of labeling as an extrinsic cue affecting liking ratings, with potential ramification for ultimate product success. Understanding consumers’ response to labels, as well as their attitudes, has broad implications for food marketing, as well as public health and the study of eating habits. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Visuals Affect Food Choice?)
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