Recent international research, published by three researchers from Grenoble Ecole de Management, shows that the temperature of a dish, depending on whether it is served hot or cold, can potentially change our perception of its objective calorie content. The risk? Eating a greater quantity of food when it is cold.
This ground-breaking research was conducted by Amanda Pruski Yamim, Robert Mai, and Carolina Werle researchers at Grenoble Ecole de Management. The experiments used a sample of more than 2,600 French, American and Brazilian adults of all ages. The results of the study were published in the international academic journal Journal of Consumer Research. These results show that the majority of participants think - often wrongly - that a hot dish is more nourishing, and therefore more calorific, while the same dish, if served cold, is perceived as lighter in calories. Eight studies, in total, argue that "this belief has powerful implications for guiding - and often biasing - product judgments and consumption decisions."
Expertise in sensory information processing and social marketing
GEM's research team studies consumer decision-making processes and behaviors. By providing new insights into the psychological processes that underlie consumption, members of the Consumer Behavior team improve knowledge to help businesses, policymakers, and consumers make better decisions. Several members, including Carolina Werle, one of the co-authors of this research, have worked for international and national health organizations such as ANSES and INSERM.
In most cultures, hot foods are considered filling and are an important part of main meals
The first point to be taken away from this study is that the misperception of the objective calorific value of a dish is observed in consumers of different ages and sexes, including consumers with more or less healthy eating habits. "In most cultures, hot foods are considered filling and are an important part of main meals. This perception comes from the fact that humans digest hot food more easily and expect hot food to be tastier. Both of these factors are deeply rooted and may explain this misperception," says Amanda Pruski Yamim, co-author of the study.
The second point is that the majority of people who opt for a cold dish underestimate its real calorific value. They tend to choose more foods and consume more calories (+31%), more fat (+37%) and more carbohydrates (+22%). "These observations prove essential for people with weight problems and obesity. One solution to this problem would be to add a hot food to a cold salad," notes Amanda Pruski Yamim.
Similarly, results show that participants in this research were willing to pay 25% more for a food item when it was served (or simply labeled) hot. The authors confirm: "The commonly shared intuition that "a hot dish is high in calories," is important to marketers and managers because high food temperatures can increase willingness to pay and quantity served, as well as have an influence on consumer preferences."
The results of this large-scale study are also expected to have important public health implications.