Rethinking Flavour: The Science of Sensation

A growing awareness of the multi-sensorial nature of flavour is pushing brands to rethink the way they create a product’s taste profile. It is now understood as a complex and multi-facetted experience; one that is engages all senses. British chef Heston Blumenthal is often credited for bringing this awareness to the mainstream, with his off-the-beaten-path experiments mixing chemistry with cuisine.

Heston Blumenthal | Fat Duck

For some courageous food and drink brands, these epiphanies have been revolutionary, prompting them to redefine what taste means and discover ways to hack exciting and surprising taste sensations into their products. In embracing this sensorial-science awakening, they are utilising cutting-edge research to develop new tastes sensation.

In this special blog series, The Science of Sensation, we will explore how designers and Innovative brands are developing new ways to enhance or influence their products’ flavour experience with ‘taste-hacking’ design decisions coming from the field of sensorial science.

Colourful Delights

In 2017, UK-based napkin brand Tork led its ambitious What’s your colour? experiment, where it observed the emotional and taste reactions produced by various colour environments. The experiment invited testers to eat similar-tasting treats in rooms of different colours and gathered their responses through brain wave technology.

Tork’s experiment played with the concept of ‘sensorial seasoning’ – the ability to use non-tasting senses to ‘season’ food. Research experiments have shown the potential for a specific context to enhance certain flavour notes in a meal, solely through design decisions. For example, a strawberry- flavoured mousse is reported to taste 10% sweeter when served from a white container rather than from a black one.

Sounds Good

The Dieline

Creative agency Kouki & Co set their conceptual packaging project Sound Bites in a future where brands would have started sound-infusing their foods. The concept brand offers two ranges: foods infused with instrumental music, and food infused with natural sounds. Each sound is activated by opening the packaging, enhancing the experience by accentuating the food’s flavour. Looking beyond conceptual ideas, cracking the code of ‘flavour sensation-hacking’ could be vital for food and drinks brands, who have grown to face increasingly tight regulations on their products’ salt, sugar and fat content.

Feels Delicious

The Science of Sensation also provides brands 
with tools to engineer explosions of multi-sensorial indulgence. By enhancing the flavours of their foods, they realise that they can add delight to the experience they offer to their consumers and engage them emotionally by addressing all their senses. They create sophisticated experiences that bring out the flavours of each drop or bite, nudging them to indulge.

Michel/Fabian’s Goûte finger licking spoon highlights this practice: the finger-shaped cutlery was designed to re-create the experience of eating with bare hands, to “enhance creaminess and sweetness perception, heighten the value of food and make for a more mindful eating experience.” The design pushes the boundaries of science and sensation, questioning how much of the indulgence actually comes from the food itself.

What’s next?

In our next Science of Sensation post, we will be exploring how design can help consumers eat less and makes better choices. Make sure you’re subscribed here to receive directly to in-box.


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