A number of recent studies have revealed the existence of cross-modal correspondences between food and beverage products and shapes varying on the angular-round continuum.
For example, it has previously been demonstrated that people preferentially match carbonated water with angular shapes and still water with rounded shapes.
The UK and US-based researchers extended this existing theory in order to investigate whether people exhibit cross-modal correspondences between cheese and shapes.
According to the study, Cross-modal correspondences: Assessing shape symbolism for cheese, this research could be furthered to developed “abstract imagery” for cheese product packaging.
“The results of the present study demonstrate that taste is the leading contributor to the systematic associations consumers have between the flavours of cheese and certain angular/sharp or organic/round shapes and speech sounds, with the same pattern of cross-modal correspondences being held across different tasting groups,” said the study.
“These results may also be used to not only develop abstract imagery for product packaging that can capture specific shape/sound symbolic properties, but also to develop descriptors that can provide a common ground on which to talk about cheeses, thereby improving communication between different panels of cheese tasters.”
The paper added however that the implications of these findings for the marketing of dairy products are yet to be discussed.
“In the future, knowing about shape symbolism effects in the food and beverage sector may allow sensory marketers to set-up the appropriate associations in the minds of consumers through the shapes used on the packaging,” it said.
Angular or rounded?
Individuals from UK-based cheese manufacturer Neal’s Yard Dairy, the University of London, and the Departments of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and the California State University contributed to the research.
The study involved three experiments.
The first, which was conducted at a gastronomy event, involved a taste test of three cheese products - Keen’s Cheddar, Tunworth, and Berkswell.
Participants rated each cheese product using a “single response scale” anchored at either end by a rounded and an angular shape.
Cheesemongers and cheese experts participated in the second experiment, while the third was conducted among customers in a cheese store.
These participants separately rated the olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), and oral-somatosensory attributes of different Tunworth, Lancashire, and Stawley cheese on the angular-round continuum.