The power of scent in marketing food products

3 ways that your packaged food can appeal to a new audience

Neil Hansford, industrial cryogenic and food expert at Air Products

1. Tap into the sense of smell

It's no secret that manufacturers want to make their products as appealing as possible to consumers and the relationship between sensory awareness and branding has been explored since as far back as the 1970s. 

sense of smell

While this has traditionally focused on the look and feel of a product and its packaging, when it comes to food, smell also plays a vital role in purchasing behaviour. At a very basic level, if something smells good, we want to eat it.

In fact, our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than our other senses and our recognition of smells is immediate. As a result, smell is deeply connected to our emotions and memory, reminding us of happy times and memorable experiences.  Recognising this powerful tie, food manufacturers are increasingly keen to translate it into an emotional brand attachment by finding ways to make their food products leave a lasting impression on consumers.

2. Sensory branding

When it comes to the wider marketing of products, again, scent has a role to play. Research by Nike shows that up to 84% of customers find its products more appealing when the environment in which they're shopping is scented, and are even willing to pay 10 to 20% more for the products. A study by Swedish researcher Martin Lindström showed that smell has potentially the most positive contribution in the field of marketing.

Until recently, the challenge for the food sector has been finding a way to successfully integrate scent into packaging, but a new innovation in Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) looks set to be a game changer. The Freshline® Aroma MAP™ system, developed by Air Products, vaporises natural aromas, such as essential oils, into food packaging at the same time as the MAP gas.  When the customer then opens the packaging, the aroma is released, enhancing their sensory experience and, we hope, encouraging them to build a positive association with the product or brand they are consuming.
Early trials of Aroma MAP have been very positive, with interest from bakery, processed meat and dairy producers especially high.  This is not a great surprise given the intrinsic link between smell and consumption that is particularly applicable to these categories - who doesn't want to eat a cake or sweet treat that smells as good as it looks?

3. Preventing product returns and food waste

When it comes to meat and dairy, we are only too aware that consumers are prone to throwing away food before it has reached its sell by date, simply because they don't think it smells appetising.  But, if manufacturers could guarantee that their products smelt as good on the use by date as they did the day they were manufactured by inserting a pleasant aroma into the packaging, then surely less perfectly edible food would be wasted.  And isn't that the holy grail of the food industry?!
In the struggle to gain consumers' attention, the option of scent marketing is an appealing way to beat the competition.


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