Our perception of food depends both on the contextual conditions in which it is presented and on the way the food is consumed; hence, there is a  current trend toward investigating these contextual variables in empirical research. In most meal situations, people interact with the food that they consume by means of a variety of accessories, such as dishes and cutlery that fulfill the consumers’ functional requirements. These stimuli play an important role during the consumption of food.

The UPV, with Oxford University and King’s College London, has conducted several studies on this subject, which have been recently published in Journal of Sensory Studies and Food Quality and Preference. The present  study was therefore undertaken in order to explore how the cutlery, specifically two teaspoons (a plastic one with metallic finish and a stainless steel one), affected consumers’ sensory and perception of  food.  Consumers’ quality and liking judgments concerning identical yoghurt samples differed significantly when tasted either with a metallic plastic spoon or else with a stainless steel spoon, the latter resulting in significantly higher scores. Thus, while plastic spoons are associated with lower quality and fast food , the opposite happens with silverware.

After  tasting  a vanilla yogurt with a metal spoon and a plastic one with metallic finish,  consumers  -unknowing it was the same yoghurt sample- thought  that the sample with a stainless  steel  spoon has  higher quality  and they liked it more.

In a third study showed how different metals affect the taste of different samples of creams and  thus, four spoons were used: a stainless steel one and three  gold-plated, zinc and copper ones.Participants were given five creams (a bitter one, one acidic, one sweet, one salty and one neutral) with each of the spoons, asking them to assess the basic flavor of each sample.
After analyzing the results, each spoon was discovered that affects a greater or lesser extent, the perception of flavor in cream, and some even increased the intensity of the dominant flavor of the cream. Thus, zinc-plated and  copper-plated spoons  enhanced the dominant flavor, and contrary to the expectations of the researchers, their metallic taste did not influence the consumer’s  perception.

Other studies show that the color of the dish in which food is served may affect how you perceive it.

These results are relevant to product development  because different dishes (i.e., foodstuffs/flavors) could be matched with different types of cutlery in order to increase convenience and, at the same, time potentially enhance the consumers’ eating experience.