Are advertisers telling us that healthy food is inherently feminine and unhealthy food is masculine, or is this some ingrained, preconceived notion from deep in our hungry little souls?
Reporting in the journal Social Psychology, researchers at the University of Manitoba say in an article titled "Macho Nachos" that while they don't have the answer, they have confirmed that people don't like it when food is packaged with messages that defy or mix gender stereotypes. In fact, they dislike it so much they say the food tastes worse, even when it's actually the same, reports Munchies.
"With packaging, we expect healthy eating to be associated with femininity," lead researcher Luke Zhu tells Time. "But what if healthy food is packaged in masculine packaging? That’s an expectation violation."
To test this, Zhu's team turned to 93 adults to conduct several experiments, one of which involved packaging Entenmann’s mini blueberry muffins with ballerinas and the word "healthy" or football players and the word "mega." They also mixed the two, producing "mega" ballerinas and "healthy" football players, and included gender-neutral packaging with a nondescript field and no qualifiers. Turns out the participants liked the mixed packaging the least, even ranking it lower in taste than its otherwise identical counterparts.
"For marketers, there’s a pretty clear implication that you want to frame the product consistently with the cultural, primed gender stereotype," Zhu says.
(Speaking of stereotypes, see why these girls invaded the toy store's "pink aisle.")