They say you eat with your eyes. So how much taste happens on the tongue and how much in the brain? How something looks affects how it tastes, but does the idea and perception of what you are eating affect the taste as well?

Does a Speckle Park steak taste better when you know the Speckle Park story and are expecting something special? How important as a breed is it that we tell the story of Speckle Park and how important is the identifiability of our product both on the hoof and on the plate?

I currently have a crush on a South African red wine called Saboteur made by Luddite Wines at Bot River in the Western Cape, about 90 minutes’ drive from Cape Town. It’s a blend of Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, matured in French oak. One of the first things that attracted me to the wine, apart from the recommendation of a trusted friend, was the words on the label:

” This is a Salute to the Saboteurs!

The Anarchists. The Revolutionaries.
To those who break the rules and defy the status quo.
The Craftsmen. The Artists. The Pioneers.

Those who do not bow down and conform; nor blindly accept.
Those whose passion bleeds through their art.
The pioneers who forge ahead with insight, wisdom and vision,
challenging the norm and questioning convention.
Those who are driven by their knowledge and their belief in a better way.
Those who stand up to be counted!

Luddites, fight your cause,
provoke, remonstrate, interrogate.
Be true to yourselves, your art, your craft.
Lead the way. Unite!

Saluez Le Saboteur!”

I liked what it has to say and I looked forward to enjoying wine made by the man who wrote these words. Does the appeal of the label influence my experience of the wine?

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that it does.

Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University is an expert in the field of experimental psychology and has made his career investigating the relationship between packaging and the consumer’s experience of the product. He has found that Coke tastes sweeter drank from a red can than a white one, and popcorn is perceived to be sweeter from a red bowl. In his book, Blink, Malcom Gladwell quotes studies where testers for 7-Up consistently found consumers would report more lemon flavour in their product if they added 15% more yellow colouring to the packaging.

These are but three of the numerous examples where it is proven that packaging can change the way we perceive the taste of foods or drinks.

“This link between food packaging materials and their contents cannot be ignored. As consumers or sellers, we need to be conscious of this relationship and its effect on our psyche.”
Emily Phillips RMIT

Emily Phillips of RMIT recently wrote about Spence saying that, “Dedicating his life’s work to this correlation, Spence has proven time and time again that colours and the type of materials used in packaging can influence taste perception. He has found that a strawberry-flavoured mousse tastes 10% sweeter when served from a white container rather than a black one, that coffee tastes nearly twice as intense but only two-thirds as sweet when it is drunk from a white mug rather than a clear glass one. He has also discovered that Colombian and British shoppers are twice as willing to choose a juice whose label features a concave, smile-like line rather than a convex, frown-like one.”

If packaging or the colour of a bowl affect perception of taste, we have to consider what the knowledge of the product can do.

Nostalgia is a taste enhancer that I’m sure we have all experienced. Peer pressure also has a significant impact. Telling the Speckle Park story far and wide and telling it in an engaging way can drive demand for our products both in the paddock and on the plate.

Let’s tell our story whenever and wherever we can; let’s celebrate all our breeders success and drive demand for these wonderful cattle…

“Saluez Le Speckle Park!”