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Brief Published: 28 Jun 2013

Cutlery Impacts Taste


Researchers from the UK’s University of Oxford have demonstrated that cutlery can influence the perception of how food tastes.

The new findings, published in the UK-based academic journal Flavour, are the result of a series of experiments with more than 100 Oxford University students. The research reveals that the weight, shape and colour of eating utensils – such as cutlery – alters the impact of how salty or sweet food tastes.

Yoghurt eaten with a light plastic spoon was perceived as dense and expensive, while white yoghurt consumed using a white spoon was rated sweeter than the exact same product served on a black spoon. Yoghurt served on small spoons was also perceived to be sweeter than when served using larger utensils. The fact that dessert is traditionally served on small spoons may have influenced this result.

Likewise, when cheese was offered on a knife, spoon, fork and toothpick, the majority of consumers said that cheese served on a knife tasted the saltiest. Consumers also perceived that beverages in cold-coloured glasses were more refreshing.

“How we experience food is a multi-sensory experience involving taste, the feel of the food in our mouths, aroma and the feasting of our eyes,” said researcher Vanessa Harrar. “Even before we put food into our mouths our brains have made a judgement about it, which affects our overall experience.” 

Beyond highlighting how eating implements and tableware can affect how pleasurable or filling a food is perceived to be, these learnings can also be applied to help food brands and restaurant purveyors regulate portion control and sodium intake. 

Conclusions echoed similar research conducted earlier this year by Oxford University and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, which also suggested that the colour of crockery could significantly alter flavour sensation. For more on ways in which colour can affect taste, see Edible Hues and Tableware as Sensorial Stimuli