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Tasting with your eyes: Sensory description substitutes for portion size

Policastro, Peggy, Harris, Carly, Chapman, Gretchen
Appetite 2019 v.139 pp. 42-49
cakes, chocolate, consumers (people), desserts, portion size, questionnaires, serving size, willingness to pay
A field study conducted in a diner explored whether a sensory rich description of an indulgent dessert prompts consumers to be willing to pay just as much for a small serving as for a large serving. Diner customers (N = 809) who ordered an entrée received a free piece of chocolate cake if they filled out a questionnaire indicating the amount of cake they ate, their willingness to pay (WTP) for the cake, their fullness after eating, and other measures. A between-subjects 2 × 3 design varied the serving size of the cake (6 oz. vs. 12 oz.) and the description of the cake (no description control, nutrition description, or sensory description). Self-reported amount eaten showed a smaller portion size effect in the nutrition description condition than in the other two conditions. Of primary interest, relative to the other conditions, the sensory description caused customers to be willing to pay as much for the small piece as for the large piece and to feel almost as full after eating from the small piece as from the large piece. These results indicate that a sensory rich description makes customers’ evaluations of an indulgent dessert less sensitive to serving size. As a result, sensory descriptions can be used to make customers just as content with a small dessert as they would be with a large dessert.