Taste is our fifth sense. Taste cells or receptors detect food and drink molecules on the tongue and then send signals to the brain to create an emotion. Subsequently, taste is associated with strong emotions. They can lead to a state of pleasure or displeasure. Originally, our sense of taste was used as a survival method, to distinguish between inedible foods and edible non-poisonous foods. Nowadays, taste is much more about pleasure. It drives a global industry of food manufacturing, and eating-out experiences and is a focal point for people’s enjoyment.
There are 5 basic tastes –
Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Savoury (Umami)
Umami is the taste of glutamate. It is associated with protein flavours.
The bumps on our tongues, called papillae, are home to our taste buds. The amount of papillae can vary from person to person. Generally, the more papillae that someone has, the more receptive and sensitive to tastes they are. Even to the point that they can detect flavours that others struggle to. Taste and flavour can be separated by smell. The aroma of a food or beverage can help you distinguish the flavour. Without smell, you may only be able to distinguish its taste category. Therefore, the aroma of food is as important as the taste in terms of the overall pleasure rating.
How does our sense of taste change with age?
Our food preferences change as we age… but why?
- Our taste buds’ sharpness declines with age, along with our sense of smell. Therefore, tastes may become less strong which can affect our enjoyment of different foods and tastes.
- The ability to train yourself to like a certain taste. Repeated exposure can increase the likelihood of enjoying a food, however, this won’t always be the case. The more you eat or drink something can change your taste preferences towards it and therefore you can often ‘train’ yourself to like something that you didn’t before.
- As we get older we tend to enjoy sugar less than we did as children. This may be related to human evolution. Sweetness is associated with calories, key for growth and survival and therefore children from birth generally prefer sweeter tastes. This can also be said for salt which is often preferred by children, potentially relating back to its association with being key for brain and muscle function.
A key takeaway is that our preferences are malleable and can develop over time.
Why do we have taste preferences?
Why is one person’s favourite food, another person’s worst nightmare?
Our taste preferences are influenced by the look and smell of the food as well as environmental factors. Nature vs nurture plays an important role in creating taste preferences, even our genes can have an impact. For example, based on genetics, people or more less sensitive to certain tastes due to varying receptors. Moreover, greater exposure to new food tastes and flavours as a newborn and pre-natal can affect your taste preferences as you get older. Genetic influences, evolutionary instincts and environmental factors can all have an impact on a person’s taste preference which is why everyone’s preferences are different.
What are the most commonly liked flavours?
Despite people having varying preferences, there are some tastes and flavours which are generally liked by most people.
- Sweet flavours – As previously mentioned, sweet flavours are generally well received by humans resulting from the evolutionary perception of being safe to eat. As a result, sweet foods are often the most popular such as chocolate, fruits and sweet beverages. In fact, vanilla is a stand-out commonly liked flavour hence its popularity in so many different products.
- Salty flavours – Salty tastes are the next most commonly liked. Although, not as popular as sweet tastes, the taste of salt is well received by humans. Salted crisps, chips, and other savoury foods are reached for due to their salty nature. Plant-Ex offers a variety of ‘On Salt’ products which would cater to this craving for salty tastes.
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Flavours that our customers love include:
Plant-Ex are flavour experts and our flavourists use their knowledge of taste to create delicious and enjoyable flavours to cater for all different preferences. For more information about our products, contact us today!