Often referred to as “food for the soul”, music is one of the universally celebrated cultural aspects of human society.  Indeed, there is an actual correlation between music and food – one feeds the ear, the other feeds our stomach. Several studies have shown that listening to music while eating increases our food intake and makes our meals last longer – keeping us in a restaurant for a longer period of time. Music also has the power to create an atmosphere that develops the flavor of food. A good meal can become excellent with the right music.

A recent study by the Aarhus University in Denmark highlights an intrinsic link between music, food, and the human body. It is a connection of our senses (both chemical and emotional) that runs deep within all of us. Researchers at the university studied the effects of different soundtracks on food choices and eye-movements in consumers. They created a ‘healthy’ soundtrack’ (a slow tempo jazz melody featuring a high-pitched piano) and an ‘unhealthy’ soundtrack (a fast tempo, lower-pitched, highly distorted guitar melody in a minor key).  Participants were split in two groups: one half listening to the ‘healthy’ soundtrack and the other half listening to the ‘unhealthy’ soundtrack. Both groups were then asked to choose from various ‘healthy’ food options such as fruit, vegetables, and salad or ‘unhealthy’ food options such as doughnuts, potato chips, and pizza.

While listening to the jazz melody, 70% of the participants chose the healthier foods, and only 57% of the participants chose healthier foods when listening to the ‘unhealthy soundtrack’. The researchers noted that the results indicate that it is possible to influence consumers’ decision-making processes with strategically picked soundtracks. One hypothesis is that more calming sounds or music can enhance cognitive activity that is necessary for making more rational decisions. On the other hand, listening to high volume music with a high tempo can induce higher stress levels, leading to more distraction and diminishing of your cognitive activity.

Believe it or not, music, food, and our eating habits are intertwined. Generally, we assume that we only rely on our sight, taste, and smell when it comes to food. It is important to note that the human brain is influenced by all types of things in our environment, including sounds. More and more restaurants and cafes all over the world are using ambient/live music to influence purchase and enhance the customer experience. Yet, many customers usually sail through these environments completely unaware of the symphony of taste between food and music.

Restaurants use ambient/live music to enhance the customer experience. (Photo: Cool Cats Singapore FB)