1. Taste. 2. Price. 3. Convenience…1,204,895. Health.
According to the recent newsletter from Food and Drink Europe, a survey of 200 Spanish consumers, published in Journal of Sensory Studies, showed that health and weight loss barely make our list of priorities when choosing what food to buy. Pretty obvious results but as we dig deeper in the newsletter we discover that what influences our choice of taste is predominantly culture. And one of the problems us fat and sugar addicted people have is that we don’t want to give up our culture to eat healthily. Well – we gave up eating healthily to eat badly didn’t we? In fact – if we go way, way, way back – one could argue that our one true culture of food consumption is raw fruits and vegetables.
Carrillo and colleagues explained that fats and sugars provide major contributions to the sensory and palatable characteristics of foods, but the high availability of energy-dense foods in developed countries – particularly in the U.S and countries within the European Union – promotes preferences that are inconsistent with dietary guidelines and have a direct relationship to wider obesity problems.
“Increased consumption of foods with high proportions of these components is mainly due to taste preference, aroma and mouth-feel characteristics,” they added.
However non-sensory aspects of food choice, such as culture, can also have a major impact on food preference.
For example, previous research (Ethnicity & Health, Vol 9(4):349-67) suggested that certain populations of African-Americans in the US believe that ‘eating healthily’ would mean giving up part of their cultural heritage, and trying to conform to the dominant culture.’
This study initially frustrated me but on second thought it is inspiring. The solution to shifting our behaviours is simple – we just have to make healthy food sensorally attractive and culturally familiar.