Many years ago I was hired to host a video project that featured individuals suffering with arthritis, and how they were coping with the pain. We decided that a good place to film would be a state fair in the south, where we would find lots of farmers who work the land and cowboys who work their bodies, hard. Unfortunately we did not consider the fact that farmers and cowboys also tend to be very, very stoic, and so my efforts to get them to talk about their pain went nowhere fast. They were, however, very willing to talk about all the food at the fair – trying to get me to eat everything from mutant-size roasted turkey legs and jumbo-sized Gulps, to fried “everything.” There were deep fried Snickers Bars, deep fried Oreos, deep fried watermelon chunks, even deep fried cotton candy (that one simply defies my science background). The hot dogs looked longer than my arm and as thick as my thighs. Seriously, I have never seen so much super-sized unhealthy food in my life. So who is really eating all the jumbo foods available at state fairs and other locations nationwide, and do descriptive food terms really lure consumers to eat more? The short answers are: men and yes.
According to an analysis by GrubHub (a destination website that helps you to locate any kind of food you want by zip code location) of 20,000 restaurants in more than 500 cities, men are significantly more likely to “go large" when they order, and certain descriptive words seem to really inspire hunger and interest in foods, especially for guys.
- If it says giant, 69% more men than women will be tempted to order it
- If it says tastiest, 57% more men than women will be tempted to order it
- If it says largest, 55% more men than women will be tempted to order it
- If it says monster, 45% more men than women will be tempted to order it
- If it says blazin, 42% more men than women will be tempted to order it
- If it says mega, 28% more men than women will be tempted to order it
- If it says colossal, 19% more men than women will be tempted to order it
- If it says world-famous, 16% more men than women will be tempted to order it
- If it says extreme, 15% more men than women will be tempted to order it
The three most common descriptive words used to temptingly describe large portions of food are: jumbo, smothered and giant. The analysis highlighted the following menu terms’ usage nationwide:
Jumbo is used on more than 15,000 items
Smothered is used on nearly 6,000 items
Giant is used on nearly 1400 menu items
Best is used on more than 1300 menu items
Monster is used on more than 1100 items
#1 is used on more than 800 menu items
Mega is used on more than 600 menu items
Extreme is used on more than 400 menu items
Tower is used on nearly 400 menu items
Flamin is used on more than 300 menu items
Think about how you might feel if you look at a menu or restaurant billboard and see food items like “jumbo deep-fried bacon dogs,” or “giant blazin sizzling shrimp,” or “largest world-famous buttered pancakes.” There is no doubt that our eyes are the windows to tempting foods, but words can certainly instigate salivation, and powerful mental and/or physical hunger. Those words can lure you into buying foods you might otherwise ignore. Those words can break willpower down, and instigate a major food binge. Even if you’re not particularly hungry, smells, mental pictures and certainly a well-crafted description of a food can easily inspire your mental appetite, which then leads to consumption. Next thing you know, you’re inhaling a feast that’s equivalent to a full day’s worth of calories. So beware of those food terms and be on guard when temptation comes in the form of ……….words.