Sensory Specific Desires Affect and are Affected by Actual Snack Choice

*Mette Duerlund
Department Of Food Science, Faculty Of Technical Sciences, Food Quality Perception & Society, Aarhus University, Denmark

*Corresponding Author:
Mette Duerlund
Department Of Food Science, Faculty Of Technical Sciences, Food Quality Perception & Society, Aarhus University, Denmark

Published on: 2021-02-16


Background and Aims: Snacking contributes to additional calories on top of what is consumed during meals. To better understand drivers of snack choice, we investigated subjective appetite and sensory specific desires (SSD). The overall purpose of this study was to 1) Study the effects of subjective appetite sensations on actual snack choice, 2) Study if SSDs were affected by actual choice and intake of snack.

Methods: A total of 112 participants answered a questionnaire about subjective appetite and chose one of two snacks: chips, representing a salty sensory taste profile or chocolate, representing a sweet sensory taste profile.

Results: Results revealed that an interaction between Salty desire and Sweet desire showed significant effect for both snack choice options. Results further revealed a significant decrease in Salty desire only after chips intake (salty taste profile) and a significant decrease in Sweet desire only after chocolate intake (sweet taste profile). Sweet desire remained the same for chips choosers and Salty desire remained the same for chocolate choosers.

Conclusions: Findings demonstrate the power of food choice to alter and to fulfil sensory desires. It is concluded that SSDs are important drivers of actual snack choice and that snacks having the desired sensory characteristics can satisfy these desires upon consumption. These findings provide further insights into the role that SSDs play in snacking behavior.


Consumer, Snack. Sensory Specific Desire, Choice, Behavior, Hedonic Hunger


Food and snack choices are influenced by numerous factors including individual, social and environmental factors [1-4]. The processes and occurrences around food choice behavior are hence complex, but nevertheless important in order to better understand some of the underlying patterns behind eating behaviors in general. Snacking refers to the act of eating a snack, often in-between meals, and snacking is known to contribute to (substantial) additional calories on top of what is consumed during main meals [1,5-7]. Popular and frequent food preferences for snacks in general include sweet, salty and fatty snack options [1,8]. Motivations and initiations to snack contain many underlying factors including homeostatic and non-homeostatic factors. Homeostatic factors comprise the processes behind e.g. hunger and satiety to signal a physiological need and thus a motivation to eat or not to eat [1,9, and 10] and non-homeostatic factors include seeking palatable hedonic foods to stimulate and fulfil desires and thus reflect a reward-seeking behavior and motivation rather than a physiological need [11-15]. Especially non-homeostatic influences like hedonic eating and reward-seeking behavior have gained increasing focus within snacking and eating behavior research [1,8,16, and 17].

Choosing a snack is often made as an impulsive decision, perhaps even instinctively. For instance, research shows that we are aware of only a fraction of our daily food decisions [18-20]. This leads us to conduct more observational and choicer research in order to favor and validate consumers’ actual choice behaviors, thus closer to real life rather than just collecting imaginary and intended choices on paper [2,21].

The present study situates itself in the research area of subjective appetite and food behavior and in the pursuit to better understand some of the individual processes and determinants in actual snack choice behavior, we here look closer into the concept of sensory specific desires (SSD) [16]. SSD refers to an intrinsic motivation to eat now or in the near future with a general desire for a certain taste category, e.g. salty, sweet, fatty, savory, spicy or bitter. SSDs both include and go beyond specific food items [22,23], whereas sensory specific satiety (SSS) refers to a decline in pleasantness of a specific food eaten relative to a food not eaten, often evaluated via liking and wanting [24-27]. Liking and wanting evaluations hence often relate to the specific food eaten, whereas specific desires can be useful in the further prediction of food choice (e.g. snacks with pronounced sensory characteristics) and eating behavior. The concept of SSD in this paper relates to the motivation to snack, specifically how SSDs affect actual snack choice and furthermore how snack choices are made to satisfy subjective desires. Several studies have approached the same topic but utilized different methodology, e.g. by looking at changes in desires over the course of a meal (often predefined and standardized meal) and investigating how additional desires develop [23,28, and 29]. Yet, no one, to our best knowledge, has included choice behavior and observed how desires are satisfied via choice. This research study thus seeks to examine the relationship between subjective sensations and actual snack choice, particularly focusing on SSDs’ effect on snack choice and snack choices’ effect on satisfying SSDs.

The overall purpose of this research study was to investigate the relationship between SSDs and actual snack choice. Specifically, the study aimed to:

  • Study the effects of subjective appetite sensations on actual snack choice.
  • Study if sensory specific desires are affected by actual choice and intake of snack.

Related to the first aim, it was hypothesized that specific appetite sensations would contribute to actual snack choice in the late afternoon, with in particular SSDs showing the greatest effects. Related to the second aim, it was hypothesized that actual snack choice and intake would alter SSDs such that the choice would reduce and fulfil the specific sensory desire from pre choice to post choice. The study involved a consumer study with a questionnaire including an actual snack choice. As such, this research study collected actual snack choice data with an implicit behavioral measure for choice in order to represent a real actionable choice and intake. Findings from the present research study can provide further insights into eating behaviors as to how and why we choose snacks and the role that SSDs play in snacking behavior.

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