July 10, 2003
Consumer Preference Research Showcased on Food TV
When selecting comfort food, men tend to choose hearty meals. Women, on the other hand, choose snacks that require little or no preparation. Comfort foods are the subject of "Top 5," a broadcast of the Food Network, on Monday, July 14, at 9 p.m. CST (see table for additional times). The show interviewed Business Administration Professor Brian Wansink in his lab and at Elis Cheesecake factory near Chicago. Other locations were a Southern restuarant, an ice cream social, and the Campbell's soup factory.
"Top 5" will feature five of the more popular comfort foods: chocolate, ice cream, fried chicken, soup, and macaroni and cheese. Part of the show, which is where Wansink's research comes in, is how comfort food associations are formed and why men and women differ in their choices.
The psychological underpinnings of peoples food preferences have been a continuing source of study at the Food and Brand Lab, directed by Wansink. Using information collected in national survey questionnaires, the lab has concluded that comfort-food preferences are formed early and are triggered by conditioned associations and gender differences.
For men, food prepared by their mothers are the comfort food of choice. Mashed potatoes, pasta, meat, and soup lead their list. Those foods, however, represent work to women, who tend to select less labor-intensive comfort food. One study found that 92 percent of self-reported "chocolate addicts" were female.
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