Savour the senses throughout the seasons: A multisensory journey across Norway and Colombia

Huy Tran, Nina Veflen, Felipe Reinoso Carvalho, Farhana Tabassum, Carlos Velasco

Do seasonal changes affect our eating experiences? More than you think, according to a new study.

The way seasons influence food availability, and our eating habits is something we can all relate to in one way or another. For example, local strawberries are not available all year round in Norway and the season typically starts in late June. Lulo, a citrusy Colombian fruit, on the other hand, has its harvest time between September and November. 

Seasons, however, not only affect food availability and eating habits but also everything else associated with the context in which we eat. For instance, the temperature of our environments, hours of daylight, levels of sounds, brightness of colours, and even our moods. 

But how exactly do our multisensory environments associated with our eating experiences change as a function of seasonal changes?  

Summer tastes better in Norway

In a recent study, we conducted four exploratory studies in Norway and Colombia, two countries with distinct climate conditions, to examine how seasonal changes influence people's associations with their eating experiences. It turns out that the impact of seasons on dining experiences varied in some interesting ways across these two countries. 

For Norwegians, summer was strongly associated with better taste and aroma, whereas spring was associated more strongly with the auditory dimension of eating experiences. Importantly, we found only few significant associations between the sensory dimensions of eating experiences and seasons for Colombia, except for the tactile and olfactory dimensions.

We also observed that Colombian participants associated eating experiences more strongly with the five basic senses than Norwegian participants, potentially suggesting that eating contexts in Colombia may attract and engage different senses more strongly than those in Norway. 

What is more, Norwegian participants associated summer and spring as the most social and pleasant seasons for their eating experiences, indicating that both physical and psychological aspects of seasons can influence how people perceive their eating experiences. On the other hand, the study did not find evidence regarding the relationship between Colombia's seasons and the sensory aspects of their eating experiences.

Colombians sensitive to the cold, Norwegians prefer sunny dining

Our study went deeper into the sensory dimensions of dining experiences between the two countries. We found that not all sensory dimensions of eating experiences differed significantly between the two countries. However, when it came to ambience, Colombian participants gave higher ratings for the coldness of their dining experiences, potentially due to their heightened sensitivity to cold. 

Meanwhile, Norwegian participants gave higher ratings for the sunny aspect of their dining environments, likely due to the stark contrast in sunlight levels across the year in Norway. So, whether you're craving some chilly vibes or sunny skies, it seems that where you dine can make all the difference.

Not just about what is on your plate

In addition, the study provided that the sensory components of the eating experience are not only influenced by immediate perceptions of the eating context but also reflect human adaptation to seasonal variations. The words provided by both Colombian and Norwegian participants demonstrate that people's eating experiences are shaped by both physical and psychological components of seasons.

Figure 1

Food is not just about taste; it is a multisensory experience. Our study has shed light on how environmental sensory cues play a key role in shaping our eating experiences, and how these cues can differ across different countries. 

This means that the perfect dining experience is not just about what is on your plate, but also about where you are enjoying it. More research is needed to uncover the cultural and geographic factors that can influence how seasonal changes affect our dining experiences. By understanding the multisensory nature of dining, we can learn how to create more enjoyable and memorable dining experiences. 


Tran, H., Veflen, N., Carvalho, F. R., Tabassum, F., & Velasco, C. (2023). Seasonal multisensory eating experiences in Norway and Colombia. Food Quality and Preference, 104873.

Published 22. June 2023

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