I’ve been doing a bit of research in the area of how external factors (be it lower air pressure, humidity, noise, music, shapes) influence our perceived enjoyment of food and wine. This article gives a summary on how sounds can potentially play a positive role in elevating our dining experience.  

We are all aware of the fact that whilst in the plane, lower air pressure, together with lack of humidity impairs our ability to smell and taste. Thus food and drinks lose roughly 30% of its taste/flavor. 

Various recent research has shown that the influence of sounds of the food itself can add significant value to people’s experience of food and drink. They also found the same to be true for external sounds unrelated to the food itself. Studies have isolated a number of specific sonic and musical parameters (such as pitch and instrumentation) that can be used to modify tasting experiences. This can potentially add significant pleasure to the consumer’s overall eating/drinking experience. If this really works, the applications can be huge. Imagine being able to drink a sweeter coffee without adding extra sugar because you are drinking it with a music track that increases your perception of sweetness. 

We are exposed to some 80-85dB of background noise in the plane depending on how far you sit from the engines. This has been found to suppress our tasting ability. But the strange thing is that it does not equally change our perception of all foods.

In 2015, Cornell University conducted a study assessing the loud airplane noise and it’s correlation with our ability to taste umami. The results showed that ratings of umami taste perception went up higher if the background noise was ramped up. Ratings of sweet taste were lower whilst salty, sour and bitter unchanged. Some foods that are rich in umami are Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms and anchovies. This explains why tomato juice is so popular in the air versus on the ground. The next time you fly, try the tomato juice or a bloody Mary and see if you think it tastes better than on ground. 

Interestingly, crunchiness ratings were rated higher when background noise was increased (compared to silence). Perhaps, adding some crunch to airline food will increase the perception of freshness and palatability of food. 

Scroll through the pages below to see how music works with wine, the science behind it and its real-life applications

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