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What happens when you smell food odors in supermarket aisles?

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Does just smelling cookies or chocolate cake make you salivate and eventually buy the cookies or bake them yourself your way without all the processed ingredients, bleached white flour, and additives? Maybe you bake chocolate cookies or brownies using cooked pureed black beans, oat bran, oat meal, raisins, goji berries, and no added oils, placing the cookies on a bed of sesame and/or pumpkin seeds instead of a greased pan, using unsweetened cocoa powder instead of melting chocolate chips, even though you smelled the commercial processed, packaged cookie scent in a food store. What do you visualize when you're imagining what a particular food smells like when it's not actually there?

Perhaps you thought ahead, maybe the chocolate chips in the cookies are so hard that they'll break off your tooth, having been in the store for weeks, at least, if they don't move off the shelf quickly. Or are the cookies addictive. You've had them once, remember the aroma, and are addicted to them. You crave them and buy or bake them. For example, see, "Rats find Oreos as addictive as cocaine."

Or check out, "Oreos as addictive as cocaine: How to kick your addiction." One solution might be to bake your own cookies using healthier ingredients such as black beans, raisins, goji berries or a pinch of stevia, flax meal, unsweetened organic raw cocoa powder oat bran, or oat meal if you're craving a sweet made with sugar, bleached white wheat flour, salt, and fat and other additives that increase shelf life.

Maybe you don't need the salt and baking powder in brownies if you're salt sensitive. Leave out the leavening and bake your brownies as flatter chewy cookies without added baking powder, baking soda, or salt.

Fashion magazines come pre-loaded with scratch-and-sniff panels for perfume and aftershave, but what about advertisements for foods like chocolate chip cookies and fresh-baked bread?

According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, when food advertisements combine a photo of food with an "imagined odor," consumers both salivate more for the item and then consume it in larger quantities. When you walk into a supermarket or other food store as a consumer, is there a change in your salivation? Do you buy the food because the scent makes you want to eat the particular item? Photo + fragrance of chocolate cake = more chocolate cakes sold, says a new study, "Smellizing Cookies and Salivating: A Focus on Olfactory Imagery."

Authors of the study are Aradhna Krishna, Maureen Morrin, and Eda Sayin. You can check out the abstract of the study that has been online since December 2013. The study will be published in print in the Journal of Consumer Research, June 2014.

When you show not only a picture of a chocolate cake, but also waft the fragrance of chocolate through a store, more chocolate cake gets bought by customers. In their research, the authors use a term they call "smellizing" to describe the concept of imagining what a particular food smells like when it is not actually there. Across four studies, the researchers placed cotton balls in participants' mouths to collect and measure saliva saturation.

Fashion magazines come pre-loaded with scratch-and-sniff panels for perfume and aftershave, but what about advertisements for foods like chocolate chip cookies and fresh-baked bread?

According to that new study in the

Journal of Consumer Research, when food advertisements combine a photo of food with an "imagined odor," consumers both salivate more for the item and then consume it in larger quantities. "We wondered whether both real and imagined food smells would enhance consumer desire for that product. Does the concept of smelling food make people salivate more and increase their desire to eat more than they normally would?" write authors Aradhna Krishna (University of Michigan), Maureen Morrin (Temple University), and Eda Sayin (Koç University), according to the February 11, 2014 news release, "Photo + fragrance of chocolate cake = more chocolate cakes sold."

The concept of olfactory imagery is introduced and the conditions under which imagining what a food smells like (referred to here as “smellizing” it) impacts consumer response are explored. Consumer response is measured by: salivation change (studies 1 and 2), actual food consumption (study 3), and self-reported desire to eat (study 4), says the study's abstract.

The results show that imagined odors can enhance consumer response but only when the consumer creates a vivid visual mental representation of the odor referent (the object emitting the odor)

The results demonstrate the interactive effects of olfactory and visual imagery in generating approach behaviors to food cues in advertisements. In one study, participants viewed the advertising tagline, "Feel like a chocolate cake?"

Some participants were shown just the tagline and others were shown the tagline accompanied by a photo of a chocolate cake. The participants were then asked to either smell a sachet with the fragrance of chocolate cake, imagine the scent of chocolate cake, or neither.

As the researchers expected, smelling the cake increased salivation for all participants

They did, however, note an increase in salivation in participants who viewed the advertisement containing both the photo and the tagline when the cake smell was completely removed (compared to people who just viewed the tagline). "Our results show that just asking people to imagine the odor of an appetizing food product will not increase salivation unless the consumer also sees a picture of the food product," the authors conclude, according to the news release.

"For brands asking people to imagine what an object smells like, they might consider appealing to common consumer experiences in visual imagery and use written cues if necessary." Instead of visualizing what the food smells like, stores can send out the fragrance, the aroma of the food or beverage. This already happens in many supermarkets when you walk down the aisle where the coffee beans are sold, often you are 'hit' with a strong aroma of brewing coffee.

Interestingly, the scent of spices or tea isn't piped into the air. On another note, in Sacramento during the holidays, in one large supermarket the produce section was sprayed with a distinct strong stench of fruit, so strong that it smelled almost like perfume. Those with asthma were overwhelmed by the aroma. And each year the same supermarket often sprayed the air as you walk into the produce section and the gift card section with a strong, eye-tearing, choking scent of cinnamon, so strong that it made many peoples' eyes tear, and even the check out clerks admitted to some of the customers, that their eyes, too were tearing up from the strong scent of cinnamon.

Too bad when a customer walks into a supermarket that the customer can't simply smell fresh air. So many people are allergic to the scent of cinnamon, especially when it's concentrated and sprayed into the air near the fruit or other products department. There's nothing wrong with tempting customers to buy food by emitting the smell of chocolate or coffee, but when it comes to a rather chemical, strong and burning scent of cinnamon or fruit near a produce section (or any other aisle) what customers want from a supermarket is fresh air.

That also applies to the annual outdoor barbeque of meats and the choking smoke aroma of burning meat that's sickening to people trying to walk from the parking lot into the supermarket. Yet each year for many years, the same stores put their outdoor barbeques and cooked meat (and the resultant smoke) into the air in the hottest summer days in Sacramento.

It really is a turnoff to people with allergies to the smoke from burning meat or the artificial scent of cinnamon in the winter indoors near the produce aisles. And for asthmatics, it's one more turnoff to avoid as some people also experience nausea from scents sprayed into the air and not naturally coming from produce. At least in one Sacramento store, when enough customers complained, the cinnamon stench eventually vanished...or was it that the holidays had passed? Also, you may wish to take a look at the site, "University of Chicago Press Journals."

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