What is it about the tangy taste of fresh apple cider that makes us happier? Do you notice that even thinking about a warm, gooey cinnamon roll can make your mouth water?
How We Experience Flavor
Neurogastronomy suggests that flavor starts in our brain with odor ‘images’ that our memories of tastes. During the process of smelling and tasting, our mind creates a map of the unique combination of flavor molecules. Several areas of our brain access this map, including the parts that deal with emotions, sight, smell, touch, taste, and the processes that tell us when we’re hungry and thirsty.
We know, though, that experiences with foods and drinks are about more than smell and taste. Gastrophysics emerged to teach us how health, moods, and beliefs affect reactions to flavors. Texture, appearance, the color of a serving dish or glass, price, and even background music and lighting may lead people to think differently about the taste of a food or beverage. Gastrophysics helps explain why it’s difficult to fully recreate a restaurant's signature dessert or drink in our kitchen.
Flavors with Mood-Boosting Power
Even if customers can’t currently enjoy the gastronomy of their favorite eating-out places, you can still harness the power of flavor to improve their state of mind. Whether they use online ordering, delivery, and curbside pick-up, customers can experience delicious flavors with known emotional benefits, such as:
- Cinnamon. A spicy, warm flavor that stimulates the brain, helping to improve concentration and memory. Cinnamon also cuts the craving for sugar.
- Citrus, including orange and lemon. These flavors, with their fresh scents, can increase alertness, energy, and a sense of well-being.
- Peppermint. One group of researchers linked the bright, fresh taste (and smell) of peppermint to higher levels of motivation and cognitive stamina.
- Vanilla. The smooth flavor of this familiar favorite evokes happiness and relaxation.
- Apple. The crisp, sweet taste of apples is another flavor that may help with relaxation. The tart taste and scent of green apples may also reduce anxiousness.
- Chocolate. Many studies examine the mood-elevating benefits of chocolate. In moderation, the flavor creates feelings of calm and contentment.
Connecting Flavors with Memories
The connection between flavors and feelings led to the addition of ‘comfort food’ to the dictionary in 1997. While ice cream and chocolate chip cookies are universal comfort foods in the U.S., flavors linked with nostalgia and happiness vary across individuals and cultures. Examples of global flavors that carry sentimental value along with delicious tastes include:
- Crème Brûlée, a rich custard-y caramel flavor dating back to 1691 in France
- Butterscotch (or golden syrup) dumplings in Australia, a classic dessert with origins linking back to the 1800s in Britain
- Sticky Toffee Pudding in Britain, a popular steamed dessert with dates, toffee sauce, and cream with ownership claimed by British, Scots, and Canadians!
- Pineapple buns in Hong Kong, a beloved snack since the 1940s, with a crunchy topping and fillings such as butter or custard cream
The U.S. hosts a wide range of nostalgic flavors such as:
- Birthday cake, in basic flavors like yellow or chocolate, or boosted with the flavor of sprinkles
- S'mores, the fireside or camping favorite with marshmallow, chocolate, and graham flavors
- Cotton Candy, in familiar pink or blue colors and reminiscent of sunny days at carnivals or fairs
- Sugar cookie, a flavor going back to the mid-1700s in Pennsylvania!
How a Flavor Story Enhances Customer Experiences
Everyone loves a good story. According to Innova Market Insights, storytelling is a powerful method to connect with customers. Stories can explain the origin and cultural significance of a food or drink or explore the power of its flavor. When you give consumers insight into the story of a product or the source of ingredients, you're building trust and encouraging conversations.
And when you share a product's story, you generate curiosity and encourage customers to try new tastes or remember why they love familiar favorites.
Find Your Next Mood-Boosting Flavor
You can explore new tastes with a free Flavorush account from National Flavors. Choose your favorite nostalgic or mood-elevating flavors and samples ship in 24-hours. You can also download complete technical documentation to speed your product launch.
To learn more about how to incorporate comforting and mood-boosting flavors into your next project, contact our team.