We know that eating is a multi-sensory experience. It is the onslaught of visuals, smell, taste, sound, texture and trigeminal stimulation that creates the flavours and textures of the foods and drinks that we love …and it is also the reason we don’t like others so much.
Unfortunately for food manufacturers, people are humans and not machines, and consequently they vary enormously, not only in the intensity of the sensations they perceive, but also the qualities they notice and their preference for them. We are alert to the flavour notes we don’t like and react more strongly to the textures we associate with unpleasant childhood food experiences.
Our senses interact with our past experiences to create an expectation of what a food will taste like. This can lead to a positive or poor experience depending on how the product performs against this expectation. We learn from childhood that red liquids are perceived as sweet and strawberry flavoured, even if they are actually acidic and taste of lime. Similarly, if we see white ‘meat’ pieces in a meat-free pie, we are primed to expect the taste and texture of chicken. We will be let down if the experiences we anticipate don’t match up….