The scent of food can often be more powerful than the food itself. The smell of bacon? Heaven. Or how about an apple pie? Or a turkey baking in the oven? Just like the cartoons, we can almost see ourselves floating in mid-air, mindlessly following the wonderful scents wafting by.

Brian Wansink and his research team are quite aware of the effect scent has on our tendency to eat. It’s what he calls “The Cinnabon Effect.” He calls it this because when it comes to scent marketing…

Cinnabon has this nailed. Cinnabon stores are positioned besides stores that don’t sell food, so there’s no smell competition. As a result, you can walk through the mall feeling perfectly fine, but once you catch that first whiff of Cinnabon Goodness wafting through the air, you’re hooked. That smell was worth approximately $200 million in sales in 2003.

(Mindless Eating)

The rest of the marketing world has caught on, of course. Food scent is big business. Often companies will infuse packaging with scent so the lure begins as you rip open the plastic.

It is difficult to reliably “impregnate” food with a scent hence the marketers need to focus on the packaging. So the next time you’re heating up a frozen apple pie and that familiar scent meets your nose, it might be the packaging and not the pie itself. That’s a scary thought!