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Brief Published: 5 Nov 2014

British Airways’ Sensory Menu

British Airways' Sensory Menu

UK airline British Airways will match meals with specially paired music tracks in order to improve the flavour of food served on board.

Based on a study conducted by British professor Charles Spence, the airline has developed a new 13-track 'Sound Bite' menu, which will be available on long-haul flights from November. Spence's research has found that certain sounds can influence people's taste buds, and that music can make food seem 10% more sweet or salty.

Passengers will be able to choose from tracks such as Scream by Paolo Nutini for the Scottish salmon starter, as Scottish musicians are said to enhance the provenance of Scottish foods. Meanwhile, James Blunt and Madonna's music are both paired with desserts, as their high-pitched tones are said to bring out sweet flavours. Similarly, wine will be paired with classical and rock music, said to enhance the perception of quality and depth of flavour.

"Your ability to taste is reduced by 30% in the air, so we do everything we can to counteract this," said British Airways chef Mark Tazzioli. "We use umami-rich ingredients in our meals, and choose wines that work well with these dishes. The sonic research is fascinating, and our pairings should really help bring out the flavours."

Airlines have been developing innovative new ways to improve on-board food options. Capitalising on the trend for all-day dining, airlines are introducing more flexible food options, while also allowing travellers to pre-order and customise meals. For more, see Future Service: In-Transit Innovation and Food in Transit.

Investigations into the way in which scent, sight and colour impact the eating experience are not only intriguing to scientists, but are also affecting the way brands, restaurants and the packaging industry develop products. For more on sensory dining, see Cutlery Impacts Taste, Colour-Coded Dining, Edible Flavoured Mist, and Crockery Colours Affect Flavour.

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