When it comes to salted caramel, science says it is our taste for complexity that has us coming back for more.
For Dr Cammy Crolic and her colleague Chris Janiszewski, the question was… why?
In their article Hedonic Escalation: When Food Just Tastes Better and Better.
Crolic and Janiszewski say they wanted to explain why some foods made us more hungry as we ate them – like salted caramel – instead of filling us up and leaving us satisfied.
Apparently, it comes down to ‘hedonic escalation’ – which is a fancy way of saying someone is in the grips of enjoying a moreish food. With each bite the food becomes more and more enjoyable and instead of easing your appetite, the flavours actually stimulate it.
In probably the best study we’ve ever heard of, participants were given different snacks to eat including salted caramel pretzels, ranch-flavoured crackers, Pringles, brownie-flavoured biscuits, and salsa-flavoured corn chips.
They then were asked to taste each snack repeatedly, and report back on how much they enjoyed each consecutive bite, and which flavours they could identity.
According to the results: ‘the amount of hedonic escalation positively correlated with the number of flavors a person could identify.’
Simply put, we love salted caramel because with each bite there is a new taste to savour. Be it because of the sweet creamy caramel or that surprising salty zing – salted caramel is the flavour combination that just keeps on giving.