Crispy Crunchy Foods and Why We Love Them

Posted by David Anderson on

“The single word ‘crispy’ sells more food than a barrage of adjectives. … There is something innately appealing about crispy food.”

-Mario Batali, The Babbo Cookbook

Crispy Conquers Cultural Boundaries

John S. Allen an anthropologist, in an article entitled ‘Why Humans Are Crazy for Crispy’ published in the ‘Chronicle of Higher Education,’ argues that our innate desire for crunchy, crispy foods is deep seated and lies in the fact that our primate cousins and ancient ancestors were fond of eating crunchy stalk like plants as well as insects, crunchy exoskeletons included. He goes on to say that, “For primates like us, the attractive quality of many less-desirable foods, such as insects and fresh vegetables, might be crispiness. Crispy may have made relatively common, easier to forage foods more acceptable, and our “innate” preference for crispy foods now could be adaptive.”

He goes on to discuss how the advent of fire also changed how we view crispy. “At some point in human evolution, maybe well over a million years ago, our ancestors discovered and learned how to use fire. According to the primatologist Richard Wrangham, this was one of the most momentous events in human evolutionary history.”

“Cooking also made available to humans a whole new range of crispy and, maybe more important, intensely flavored foods. Heating facilitates the Maillard reaction, in which carbohydrates and amino acids combine to produce an array of flavors and aromas (and brown color). In dry-heat cooking, such as grilling, baking, and frying, the Maillard reaction occurs on the surface of the meat or vegetable, leading to enhanced flavors and a crispy crust. As Wrangham argues, the nutritional advantages provided by cooking undoubtedly made it a critical step in human evolution. But cooking also combined crispness with more-appealing flavors (compared with the crispy fallback foods), which may have helped the practice of cooking become even more adaptive.”

Crispy Food Sounds Good and that Means Something 

Another thing that crispy and crunchy foods do is enhance the sensory experience of eating. Obviously, when we eat, we use our senses of taste and smell, as well as the sense of touch as we assess the texture and “feel” of the food both in our hands and in our mouths. An underappreciated component of the eating experience is sound.

Sound is not just there for show when you are eating, it also signifies. Charles Spence, Ph.D., gastrophysicist and professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford discusses this saying,

“Noisy foods correlate with freshness. The fresher the produce, like apples, celery, or lettuce, the more vitamins and nutrients it’s retained. It’s telling us what’s in the food.”

His explanation becomes slightly misguided when it reinforces the quality of a potato chip, a processed slab of empty calories. But Spence has a theory on this, too: “The brain likes fat in food, but it’s not so good at detecting it through our mouths. Noisy foods are certainly fattier on average.”

“Sound affects the experience of food,” Spence says. “The noise draws attention to the mouth in the way something silent does not. If you’re eating pâté, your attention can drift elsewhere, to a television or to a dining companion. But a crunch will draw your attention to what you’re eating, making you concentrate on it. Noisy foods make you think about them.”

How You Can Keep Your Product Crispy 

So now that we have heard what a few experts in the fields of anthropology and paleontology have said about our ancestral predilection for crispy and crunchy foods, the next logical question we must ask ourselves is how do we keep crispy foods crisp and crunchy food crunchy?

The answer is Modified Atmosphere Packaging paired with a high quality Modified Atmosphere Packaging Gas Analyzer that you can use to make sure your packages have the right type and amount of headspace gas in them. Without this simple quality control process step, there’s no way of knowing how long your crispy, crunchy snacks will stay that way. Your customers want their crisps to crunch, that’s why they bought your product in the first place, it’s only right to give them what they want.