Food firms should exploit consumer senses, claims professor

By Rick Pendrous contact

- Last updated on GMT

 Food firms should be tapping into the emerging field of ‘senseploration’, claims Professor Charles Spence
Food firms should be tapping into the emerging field of ‘senseploration’, claims Professor Charles Spence
Food and drink firms need to better exploit consumers’ senses – including smell, sight, sound and touch – in their new product development (NPD) if they are to tempt them towards new taste experiences and reformulated products, a leading pioneer of ‘gastrophysics’ has disclosed.

Companies should be tapping into the emerging field of “senseploration”​, where people’s flavour experience is investigated, according to Professor Charles Spence, head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the Department for Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford.

“It can’t be just about what’s on the plate, it’s got to be the total experience,”​ said Spence, during an interactive presentation at a gala dinner in London in September to mark the 100th anniversary of the UK Flavour Association (UKFA).

While senseploration is being increasingly used by restaurants – changing colours, background music and tactile experiences to alter the perception of the food and drink being consumed – opportunities also exist for its use in retail, said Spence.

The study of synaesthesia

His work draws upon the study of synaesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

In the past few years there had been a shift to what is called “correspondence”​, which is similar to synaesthesia, but with fundamental differences, said Spence.

“We all share certain correspondence between us: tastes, shape, colours, pitch and textures. And it operates under the radar, below consciousness, but artistic experience can bring it out,”​ he explained.

“Brands are looking at incorporating correspondences into their own offering, either in product or by experiential events.”

The challenge for the food and drink industry is that for most people, just 1% of our brains is given over to smell and taste, Spence claimed.

What we smell, see, hear and feel

Clues around the potential nature of food and drink are taken from what we smell, see, hear and feel, he explained.

Better understanding these various multisensory influences can help the food industry meet their consumers’ taste expectations, Spence added.

In response, Steve Morgan, chair of the UKFA, said: “Because of this requirement for innovation, flavour houses have played a major role in NPD and applications support, moving from merely supplying flavours, to helping develop recipes and delivering solutions that take into account marketing, sensory and flavour demands.”

Please click here to sign-up for our free monthly Food Ingredients, Health & Nutrition (FIHN) newsletter.

Related news

Show more

comments

Post your comment

We will not publish your email address on the website

These comments have not been moderated. You are encouraged to participate with comments that are relevant to our news stories. You should not post comments that are abusive, threatening, defamatory, misleading or invasive of privacy. For the full terms and conditions for commenting see clause 7 of our Terms and Conditions ‘Participating in Online Communities’. These terms may be updated from time to time, so please read them before posting a comment. Any comment that violates these terms may be removed in its entirety as we do not edit comments. If you wish to complain about a comment please use the "REPORT ABUSE" button or contact the editors.