The Last Bite

The Last Bite

Bigger isn't always better even when it comes to food.

While consumers demand larger portions, new research from Carnegie Mellon University suggests that not only do larger portions lead diners to enjoy the foods they eat less, they also reduce how often people eat certain items.

Each bite of a food or sip of a drink is enjoyed less than the previous one, a familiar phenomenon called "sensory-specific satiety." So consuming a larger portion means that the average enjoyment of the food or drink being eaten is reduced.

The degree of satiety at the end of a meal also influences how long we want to wait to eat a food in the future, as revealed by research conducted by Carey Morewedge, associate professor of marketing at CMU's Tepper School of Business, and his colleagues.

"Although people often say they prefer larger portion sizes, especially for foods that they really like, our research indicates that consumption of larger portions can ultimately decrease the frequency at which these foods are consumed," Morewedge said. "This suggests people and companies may actually be better off with smaller portions."

Research participants who ate chocolate truffles were given a coupon for a free bag of truffles, which they could pick up anytime in the subsequent two weeks. Although all participants redeemed their coupons, the more participants reported feeling fully satisfied after they finished their last truffle was the key predictor of how long they took to pick up their free bag.

People who ate a greater amount of truffles took substantially longer to redeem their coupons than did participants who ate a single truffle.

"Our conclusions suggest that how much we enjoy our last bite of a food — the end of an eating experience — appears to determine how long we will choose to wait before eating the same food again." Morewedge said.

He said that companies could learn from the research and benefit through frequent repeat purchases in smaller sizes.

Another interesting finding of the study was that distraction while eating, such as watching TV, can cloud the way people felt about their meal. The result was that distracted people were not as influenced as much by their enjoyment of the food as participants who were not distracted.

The paper, titled "Does liking or wanting determine repeat consumption delay?" is published in this month's issue of "Appetite."

Related Links: Read press release | Tepper School of Business

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