I’m here to say I love texture. Texture in home décor, apparel, and come to find out: food. I love textured wallpaper, throw pillows, and furniture with interwoven fibers and a nice mix of elements in a room. I also love fall and winter clothing over summer outfits, and the food I put in my mouth I’m a bit picky about. I’ve never liked anything squishy or slimy like scallops, gnocchi, or dumplings and I’m not a big fan of rice. The only time I (shockingly) veer off this food course is oysters. I do like them and especially the chargrilled ones at Drago’s in New Orleans. On the whole though, I don’t like anything slimy and recent studies confirm we all have food texture preferences.
An article entitled “Model for understanding consumer textural food choice” at onlinelibary.wiley.com caught my eye as it detailed categories of food eaters and how product development and marketing are developing products based on all of this. I love this kind of stuff and you will too as you figure out whether you’re a Cruncher, Chewer, Sucker, or Smoosher.
Apparently there is a definite relationship between what foods we like and tend to purchase and our chewing behavior. How we manipulate food in our mouths is a key indicator of food preference. Research was done on this and some of the results included test participants saying things like:
- I like to suck on hard candy until it fully dissolves
- I usually break up hard candy quickly and swallow it
- I prefer hard crunchy cookies to soft chewy ones
- I prefer soft creamy candies to hard candies
Are you feeling a food texture choice yet? Wait, there’s more!
So, the four “mouth behavior” groups mentioned above fall into two modes of mouth actions. Crunchers and Chewers make up Mode One in that they like to use their teeth to break down foods. Crunchers are more forceful biters and like foods that break up upon biting while Chewers like foods that can be chewed a bit longer. Suckers and Smooshers make up Mode Two and prefer to manipulate food between the tongue and roof of their mouth. Suckers like harder foods like hard candies and anything they hold in their mouths and suck for a long time (keep it clean here readers) while Smooshers prefer soft foods like creamy candies and puddings. Check out the below chart courtesy onlinelibrary.wiley.com to start getting a hint at where you might fall.
Table 1. Examples of products chosen by the different mouth behavior groups
|Types of products chosen||Mouth behavior classification group|
|Chocolate with nuts, hard chocolate cookies with nuts, CheetosR and RufflesR (PepsiCo), raw broccoli||Crunchers|
|Gummy Bears, StarburstsR (Wrigley Co.), Twix (Mars, Inc), Kettle and CheetosR Puffs (PepsiCo), soft granola bars||Chewers|
|Goat cheese, Buffalo mozzarella, French onion soup, whipped cream||Smooshers|
|Jolly Ranchers hard candies, Werthers OriginalsR (August Storck KG) butterscotch pieces||Suckers|
My gut feeling tells me I’m a Cruncher as I love all the food listed for them but I also love anything gummy like Gummy Bears and Swedish Fish and prefer creamy peanut butter (which I adore) over crunchy. That’s why it was good to learn that just because someone falls into one of the four groups doesn’t mean they can’t spend time in other groups. It merely indicates foods more chosen and more delightful or satisfying. Amen as I also really like pudding and chewy caramels. Hmmmmm….
So, let’s dive further. The following chart is a great place to find your texture presence.
Table 4. Response patterns of behavior groups shown from survey questions
|Prefer products they can chew||Prefer hard crunchy cookies over soft chewy||Prefer hard candy over soft||Let cereal get soft or eat soft cereals like oatmeal|
|Prefer chewy candy over hard candy||Prefer hard granola bars over soft||Like chocolate hard enough to suck on||Prefer soft creamy candies over hard candy|
|Would choose dried fruit that is chewy||Eat ice cream right out of the freezer||Like to suck a long time on candy||Prefer thick creamy snacks over crispy|
|Like chocolate with good chewing texture||Like apples that are crisp||Always have hard candy around||Prefer flavored ice cream with no pieces|
|Prefer cereals like Cheerios or flakes||Like raw vegetables||Like mints with some burn||Chewing gum hurts their jaw|
|Do not prefer chocolates hard enough to suck on||Prefer ice cream with crunchy pieces||Like high carbonation in drinks||Like food that is soft and spreads through the mouth|
|Do not like to play with food in the mouth||Smoosh foods that they could chew|
Interesting, right? Let’s take chocolate as an easy way of delineating the four groups out. Suckers tend to like chocolate that is hard enough to suck on, Smooshers prefer chocolate that melts fast, Crunchers choose chocolate that contains nuts, and Chewers opt for chocolate with a good chewing texture. Okay, this helps out because I tend to like chocolate with nuts. Give me a Snickers, Heath bar, or chocolate chip cookies any day.
If need be however, we all can easily adapt one type of food and its texture to one we prefer. For example, if a Cruncher is eating a soft food, they are more likely to choose one with nuts or chips. A Chewer eating a crunchy cereal will often add chewy ingredients like raisins.
As mentioned above, all of this is very helpful in marketing and product design. Designers and developers are now creating products for each of the four mouth behaviors when possible and are realizing that product textures and messages no longer resonate with everyone. I wouldn’t care how appealing and pretty an ad for scallops might be, it won’t ever convince me to buy the product. Now that you know this, I bet you’ll start noticing words like “creamy,” “crunchy,” “smooth,” and “crispy” in food product advertising.
Two more areas all of this impacts are the elderly and the obese. Think about it, elderly often have dental issues and devices in their mouths, making food manipulation more challenging. Crunchers probably have trouble with very crunchy foods as they age and instead of choosing softer foods, they may lose their appetites all together and be at risk of dangerous weight loss.
Weight gain also comes into play, but for everyone. It was hypothesized that once someone understands their preferred mouth behavior, they can better enhance compliance with diet and weight management regimes. WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers, has taken this idea and successfully run with it, believing that by eating the food that appeals to your mouth behavior, the more likely one is to maybe lose weight and at the very least, be more satisfied and eat less.
Again, I find this kind of stuff fascinating. Now I know why I love Ruffles, crispy bacon, snap peas, cookies, apples, and Cheerios, but I can also relish a good steak, creamy cheeses, grapes, and those heavenly Swedish Fish. This Cruncher is a bite away from bliss. How about you? Are you a Cruncher, Chewer, Sucker, or Smoosher?