Make It Hot? How Food Temperature (Mis)Guides Product Judgments


Despite being a basic food property, food temperature has been largely neglected by consumer research thus far. This research proposes that consumers spontaneously infer that warm foods contain more calories, an unexplored lay belief we named the “warm is calorie-rich” intuition. Eight studies reveal that this deep-seated intuition has powerful implications in terms of guiding (and often biasing) product judgments and consumption decisions. Temperature-induced calorie inferences are rooted in perceptions that warm foods are more filling and tastier than cold ones, which enhance warm foods’ desirability and affect consumer choices. The preference for warm products is mitigated when food energy does not provide utility to consumers though, such as when consumers have a health goal active, and it reverses when consumers purposefully aim to reduce their calorie intake. The “warm is calorie-rich” intuition is important for marketers and managers because warm food temperatures can increase willingness to pay (by 25%) and amount served (+27%), as well as influence consumer preferences. This intuition also has important public policy implications: consumers tend to underestimate the nutritional value of cold foods, resulting in increased consumption of calories (+31%) and fat (+37%).