Consumers show a preference for transparent packaging of food products over opaque packaging options for certain food categories, but when it comes to healthy foods they tend to shift away if those are offered in clear packages, results from new research suggest.

For the food industry, this means that packaging plays a significant role both for visual appeal and amount of product consumed but the effect varies across different products, the American Marketing Association said.

Researchers Xiaoyan Deng, of Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, and Raji Srinivasan, of McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas in Austin, asked respondents to watch TV commercials and rate them. However, they actually evaluated the effect of packaging on the amount of snack foods respondents consumed while watching TV.

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Results showed that for small foods, such as M&Ms, respondents ate larger quantities if they came from transparent packaging, with the difference coming in at about 58 percent. Meanwhile, bigger and visually appealing food products, such as cookies, were eaten in bigger amounts when they were put in opaque bags.

The study, published in the July edition of the Association's Journal of Marketing, also showed that when respondents were given healthy food products, such as baby carrots, the amount consumed from non-transparent packaging surpassed that from clear packaging by more than three-quarters.