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The Psychological Trick Behind Potato Chip Bags

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Whether you prefer the neon orange dust of Cheetos, try to keep things relatively healthy with pretzels, or firmly believe in the impossibility of eating just one Lay’s potato chip, your snack choices all have one thing in common: their packaging.

With the exception of Pringles, almost all chips come in a crinkly polymer bag. Your chief complaint about those bags may be how they’re only filled about halfway, but that’s on purpose—the bags are filled with nitrogen to create an air cushion that helps protect the delicate snacks within.

Another part of the bag design that’s completely intentional: the noise it makes. Research has shown that the crinkly, crunchy noise produced by the polymer increases the user’s sensory experience, leading snackers to feel that the chips are crisper, crunchier, and fresher than those not served in the bag.

But there is a tipping point to the effect, as Frito Lay inadvertently discovered. In 2010, the company introduced a new, compostable bag for their Sun Chips brand. Consumers quickly picked up on the fact that the bag, made of a corn-based polylactic acid, was louder than the old version—a lot louder. The bag tested at 95 decibels, which is about as loud as a motorcycle. The ear-piercing package even inspired a Facebook community called “SORRY BUT I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG,” liked by more than 40,000 people. Due to consumer response, the bag was changed again in 2011.

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Food
Does More Fat Really Make Ice Cream Taste Better?
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Cholesterol. Sugar. Carbs. Fat. As diet-trend demons come and go, grocery store shelves fill with products catering to every type of restriction. But as any lifelong snacker knows, most of these low-sugar/carb/fat options can't hold a candle to the real thing when it comes to taste. Or can they? Scientists writing in the Journal of Dairy Science say fat may be less important to ice cream's deliciousness than we thought.

Food researchers at Penn State brought 292 ice cream fans into their Sensory Evaluation Center and served each person several small, identical, unlabeled bowls of vanilla ice cream made with a range of fat levels: 6 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent, 12 percent, or 14 percent. The participants were asked to taste and compare the samples.

The researchers had two questions: Could participants tell the difference between varying fat levels? And if so, did they care?

The answer to the first question is, "It depends." Taste-testers' tongues could spot the fat gap of 4 percent between dishes of 6 percent and 10 percent. But when that range moved to 8 percent and 12 percent, they no longer noticed. 

More interestingly, reducing fat levels didn't have much effect on their interest in eating that ice cream again. They were equally interested in having a bowl of ice cream that had 6 percent fat and one that had 14 percent.

It's a bit like plain and pink lemonade, co-author John Hayes said in a statement. "They can tell the difference when they taste the different lemonades, but still like them both. Differences in perception and differences in liking are not the same thing."

Co-author John Coupland notes that removing fat from ice cream doesn't necessarily make it better for you. For this study, the researchers used the common industry trick of replacing fat with a cheap, bulk-forming starch called maltodextrin.

"We don't want to give the impression that we were trying to create a healthier type of ice cream," Coupland said.

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CasusGrill
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Design
A Cardboard Grill You Don't Have to Feel Bad Throwing Away
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CasusGrill

Just because a product is built to last doesn't necessarily mean it's good for the environment. In the case of barbecuing, disposable can be a good thing—if it's designed right. The Danish CasusGrill is a cardboard grill made from ingredients that break down quickly without causing environmental damage, as opposed to the aluminum versions (both disposable and traditional) that take hundreds of years [PDF] to decompose, as Co.Design reports.

The exterior is fashioned out of recycled cardboard, with the bottom lined with lava rock to protect the box from burning—and to insulate your hands against the heat, should you want to pick up the grill. The gridiron is made of bamboo, which has a higher ignition point and thus is less likely to catch on fire while grilling than regular wood.

Steak, sausages, and bacon cook on top of the cardboard grill.
CasusGrill

The grill is fueled by bamboo charcoal that gets hot enough to use in five minutes. Traditional charcoal briquettes usually have additives like coal and borax that make grilling a smoggy affair, while bamboo charcoal is a little more human-friendly. (It's the same kind of charcoal that's used in beauty products and those striking black charcoal-flavored foods.)

Based on the instruction video, it seems like the grill is just about ready to use straight out of the box. If you've ever put together an IKEA coffee table, the CasusGrill will be a breeze. You just have to fit a few cardboard pieces together to make the base, attach it to the grill, and light it up. Give it a few minutes to heat up, put the grate on top, and it's ready to go, cooking for up to an hour. When you're done, you can toss it on your campfire, leaving no trace of your cooking process. (Except the full stomachs.)

It's not available on the market just yet, but should be out sometime in August 2017. Go ahead and add it to your summer camping must-have list. You can pre-order the CasusGrill for $8 from The Fowndry.

[h/t Co.Design]

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