You know how sometimes a smell can make your mouth water? How the scent of cookies baking in the oven or a pot of something yummy simmering on the stove can get your stomach growling? That’s because our senses of taste and smell are closely related.
Intrigued by this connection between how what enters our noses affects what we perceive in our mouths, the makers of one of our best-selling products got to work developing a new product that uses science to enhance the eating experience.
Of course, when we heard about this new good, AromaFork™, we couldn’t wait to try it! So, we rounded up a batch of volunteers from around UncommonGoods and offered them a mid-day snack session in exchange for their honest feedback.
The blog team asked Data Analytics Manager Victoria, Product Development Associate Tiffany, Senior Operations Manager Mary Catherine, and Digital Marketing Manager Zack to don blindfolds and taste test six different treats. After each nibble, they wrote down not only what they thought the food was based on its taste, but also what they smelled.
No blind taste test is complete without at least a bit of attempted trickery, so we made sure to vary our food and scent combinations to include things we thought would go great together and a few more unusual pairings to try to throw our volunteers off.
We sliced grapefruit and added a drop of mint essence to the AromaFork™’s absorbent scent pad first, but this didn’t fool many of our participants. With the exception of Victoria, who guessed that she was eating a tangerine, the tasting team all called grapefruit. They also all got mint right on the nose.
Our next edible experiment was with sauerkraut and a whiff of black pepper. This one threw most of the group off. Zack figured it out, but the rest of the bunch was certain it had to be kimchi or some kind of pickled pepper. They had different reactions to the flavor, but they all agreed that the pepper scent seemed to subtly change the perceived flavor of the sauerkraut.
The experiment got off to a good start, but we ended up learning even more as we tested the remaining food/scent combinations. To try a couple of our exclusive aromas, we paired marshmallows with the sweet scent of bubblegum and pound cake with the chocolaty-smelling black forest cake oil. To try something a little different we tried unflavored tofu and a drop of cinnamon scent. To confirm whether or not an added aroma could boost an already strong flavor, we paired Gouda and the smell of smoke. Finally, in one last attempt at fooling our friends, we combined baguette with not one, but two unique smells–olive oil and basil.
As expected, the team’s reactions definitely reflected whether they enjoyed the actual food they were eating. The tofu didn’t go over well, but that seemed to be based on the feel of the food rather than the added scent. Marshmallow, on the other hand, was a success. Even Mary Catherine, who says she doesn’t love marshmallows, enjoyed the combination, calling the experimental version “much more fun.”
Also as expected, the complementary scents we dropped on the forks before serving up the pound cake and Gouda “tricked” our testers into guessing that they were eating more elegant versions of each food. They all guessed “cake” and “cheese” but liked how the scents enhanced the sweet and smokey flavors of their respective foods.
Our final experiment, baguette with a drop of basil scent and a drop of olive oil scent, did confuse the panel. They all knew they were eating bread, but all thought they were either smelling licorice or fennel. (To be fair, we didn’t tell them that they were smelling more than one aroma oil.) From this, we learned that combining a couple of scents can be a fun way to play with the senses, but that the combinations might not turn out as planned.
The blind taste test was a blast, we all left our conference room full and content, and we all agreed that the AromaFork™ would be a great dinner party activity. Someone also joked that it could be a clever way to trick your kid into eating veggies!
One of the biggest take-aways from our experimentation is that while the included scents can definitely enhance flavors in food, and even seem to cause subtle changes in flavor, they can’t completely trick you into thinking you’re eating something drastically different than you really are. Of course, we’re open to further testing this theory. Who’s bringing the snacks?!