Hunger effects on option quality for hedonic and utilitarian food products

Tobias Otterbring, Michał Folwarczny, Kerstin Gidlöf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple studies have examined the extent to which consumers’ hunger levels predict their food choices and preference patterns. These investigations often involve making binary choices between hedonic foods (e.g., ice cream) that primarily serve to provide sensory pleasure, and utilitarian foods (e.g., bread) that mainly fulfill functional purposes. However, most consumers entering a grocery store are not restricted to solely selecting either hedonic or utilitarian foods. Rather, they typically choose both hedonic and utilitarian food options. Moreover, little is known about the effects of hunger on consumers’ option quality (i.e., the degree of match between actual food choices and stated preferences) or their cognitive performance in food contexts. To address these gaps, the current study explored (1) whether experimentally induced hunger (vs. satiation) influences the option quality of consumers’ chosen food items; (2) whether this potential interplay is contingent on the food category (hedonic vs. utilitarian); and (3) whether hungry (vs. satiated) consumers’ performance may differ on cognitively challenging tasks. The results revealed that hunger did not lead to a generalized decrease in consumers’ option quality. However, option quality was inferior for utilitarian—but not hedonic—foods among hungry consumers, whereas no such differences were found for satiated consumers. Hungry (vs. satiated) consumers also performed significantly worse on cognitively demanding tasks, underscoring the far-reaching consequences of hunger on consumers’ decision-making. Further research should test the generalizability of these results in ecologically valid settings, such as in actual supermarkets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104693
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
  • Economics and Business

Free keywords

  • Food choice
  • Food preferences
  • Hedonic
  • Hunger
  • Option quality
  • Utilitarian


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