To better understand the power of pizza, DIGIORNO conducted a social experiment that measured its effect on the moods of partygoers. While most would think it's the first bite that elevates the mood, the study revealed that partygoers were actually happiest when smelling the aroma of pizza baking in the oven.

To conduct this experiment, DIGIORNO recruited real people to host friends and family for a pizza party at a Manhattan loft. During three separate parties, the room was set up with more than 40 high-resolution cameras that captured footage of guests while pizza baked in the oven and after it was served.

With the help of facial recognition and emotion-tracking software, the footage was then analyzed to identify patterns in emotion. For example, "joy" was classified based on indicators of happiness like smiles and eye movements.

"This experiment gave us unique insight into our belief that oven-fresh pizza helps people get more out of their occasions," says Jeff Hamilton, president, Nestlé foods division, Nestlé USA, Solon, Ohio. "We were able to learn about how, when and why moods may change in response to pizza in an exciting new way."

The results
Across all three gatherings, when pizza was in the oven, it coincided with the highest observable increase in joy – even greater than levels reached when the pizza was actually being eaten.

Notable findings include:

  • Pizza prep. When pizza went into the oven, everyone's mood improved, with joy increasing up to 18 percentage points.
  • That smells great. As smell permeated the room, partygoers were happiest, with joy increasing up to 24 percentage points.
  • It's ready. Taking pizza out of the oven also had significant impact on the moods of partygoers, with an increase in joy up to 20 percentage points.
  • Serving up slices. When hosts cut the pizza, partygoers experienced up to an 11 percentage point increase in joy.
  • Eating pizza. As partygoers took their first bite and began eating pizza, increase in joy went up to 11 percentage points.  

About the social experiment
DIGIORNO conducted a social experiment using 24 real people, and measured the effect of oven-fresh pizza on gatherings. Three separate parties were set up with more than 40 high-resolution cameras to capture participants throughout the event. The footage was then processed using custom software that used facial recognition and emotion tracking to map the partygoers' expressions. All measurements of joy are compared to five minutes after the beginning of each party, which was used as the baseline for testing.

Patterns were identified based on the levels of joy displayed by partygoers in response to stimulus. Video was broken down to images at 5-second intervals to process through facial analysis software. Patterns in emotion (Joy, Sorrow, Anger, Fear, Surprise) were calculated with Google's Vision API on a scale of 0-4. The joy scores were averaged on a per minute basis (by participants experiencing joy only) and subtracted from the initial joy felt upon arrival at the party.