Attractive Packaging Sways Consumer Spending

Colorful or otherwise noticeable food packages predispose where people look, how long they examine certain options and ultimately, influence which foods they choose, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

CORAL GABLES, Fla.Colorful or otherwise noticeable food packages predispose where people look, how long they examine certain options and ultimately, influence which foods they choose, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

University of Miami and California Institute of Technology researchers asked participants to search for and choose a snack food item to eatsuch as M&Ms or Twixout of four simultaneously presented snack alternatives. Eye-tracking technology recorded what items people were looking at.

"When choice options are presented simultaneously, eye movements are considered a good predictor of our economic decisions," said Milica Mormann, senior research scientist at the University of Miami School of Law and co-author of the study. "The big idea here is that perceptual processes happen in the brain in parallel with economic value computations and thus influence how economic decisions are made."

Images of food items were also analyzed using novel neuro-computational simulation of human attentional processes to determine which items attract attention due to the color, brightness and other visual features of their packaging.

The experiment showed that visual fixations are driven by a combination of visual attractiveness and preference information. In fact, the visual attractiveness of product packaging influences where people look in a ratio of 1:3 or 2:3 compared to consumer preferences. In other words, visual attractiveness has a smaller, but significant, influence compared to food preferences on consumer decisions.

Importantly, these findings allowed the scientists to accurately predict eye-movement patterns and subsequent food choices using only the images of food items and participants' stated liking ratings of these food items. The accuracy of prediction was higher when both visual features and preferences are accounted for than when only the preference information was considered.

In a different study, researchers confirmed consumer spending decisions may also be swayed by the amount of information on food labels. When provided more information about ingredients, consumers are more confident about their decisions and value the product more.

Hide comments

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Publish