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COVID: Smell, taste and the lessons for the food industry

I am delighted to be Interviewed for Food Navigator.

Almost a year since the start of the pandemic in Europe, many of those infected who reported losing their sense of smell and consequently taste — even without displaying other symptoms — still haven’t recovered these senses. What implications could this potentially bring food industry innovation? Here I answer their questions…


What is the eating experience like for those deprived of smell and taste?

Over the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to talk with 10 individuals that have suffered temporal anosmia and dysgeusia due to contracting Covid-19. Their countries included Albania, France and Canada.

What I have discovered is that the core problem that emerges is one of sensory and stimulation deprivation.

Being described as having a mouth like ‘chewing on hay’  or ‘porcelain’ and cardboard. Their food is then perceived as lacking a strong, natural and fresh tastes and in mouth flavours they experience are now too simplistic. Their inability to perceive flavours prevents the production an appetite and of the positive, learnt emotions driven by tastes and more powerfully, from the aromas.

Are there any implications in this for the food industry?

Yes there are. From my cross cultural study, I found that that the individual both becomes bored and disconnected —they seek other entertainment. Often they turn more to social media using – scrolling, seeing more Netflix, acting as food substitutes. (More comments below on food manufacturing ideas).

For example, many sufferers from loss of sense and smell can only experience tastes that are highly salty or sweet.

They are using, for example, high salt and fat snacks, yet what they want is a food with a higher impact then what they are having, the food that can at last trigger their positive emotional memories.

As for sugar, we understand that a great carrier of flavour is sweetness with sugar as its foremost performer. This drives the consumer to use sweet items. Sadly, stimulation like that requires ever higher peaks of impact and both taste buds and the receiving of messages by the brain easily become inured to the same taste impact level.

Are there any new tastes or textures that can potentially allow sufferers from loss of sense and smell a more fulfilling and nutritious eating experience?

What all consumers with this devastating anosmia would like is good quantity of food with a pleasant persistent flavour – as this can’t be perceived by them the texture is important too. Nothing stimulates like texture.  A firmer texture may help to extend time in mouth and extend the taste. What they are searching for are moments of high intense flavours that uplifts them by triggering those positive learnt emotional memories that form the basis for their preferences.

As such crisp foods that shatter also work well and spread successfully through the mouth with high intensity. A crisp front of mouth awakens them, enhancing their awareness and involvement through its noise, accentuated through the bones of the head.  This will help cut through their boredom, enables them to exit an unattractive mood and re-start in a new direction and thus be refreshed.

For example crisps/chips, biscuits/cookies, toast, breakfast cereals, french fries and vegetables all do this well, but they can be unhealthy and not helpful if used for longer periods of time.  The more natural foods, without resorting to fats, salt or added sugar, which carry the impact, should be used wherever possible such as ice, celery, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, nuts… – all are successful in crunch.  This is the basis of snack foods – where crunch equals excitement!. The food industry could use this knowledge in a positive way.  With food manufacturers therefore providing foods that are more complex,  with extensive use of textural variation to provide greater chewing response and duration within the mouth.

Contrasting features of foods are also important, just like a story or a film we like changes, twists in plot  – every eating experience Is filled with key themes e.g. aroma, mid mouth, texture aftertaste etc. Often the meals and products we like best have flavour or texture contrasts within them. Like for example a nutty, crispy texture with a soft gooey filling. Sufferers should build taste journeys around this insight with a mix of textures, plus cold and warm temperatures in dishes which are perceived as pleasant because they are contrasting and stimulate the trigeminal nerve – Trigeminal sensations once established are quite often preferred and often have a repeated use. Sadly, that said, It may be that the virus also targets the trigeminal nerve with some patients unable to detect even the spice of chilli.

Nevertheless, this role of stimulating the trigeminal nerve may be worth exploring as trigeminal triggers rewards are so hight as they provide us with pain & pleasure. Potential suffers could explore the use of Texture/touch, with Ice / Heat or Chili / Wasabi.  The ‘thrill’ of a strong sensation should lead to a release of endorphins.

To wash it down, a heavy sticky drink that adheres to the mouth and tongue might also maximises flavour delivery. Long lasting and soft textures so that flavour is released over a longer length of time and spread throughout the mouth. Thus more taste buds are hit and the flavour impact and stimulation is greater. Or alternatively trying a variety sodas with differing carbonation levels can provide intrigue and stimulation – many have an aggressive fizz that is highly compelling.

Then as I hope it will, their tastes returns, then a greater usage of spices and complexity of flavours that involve the mind into re-acquiring the learned tastes may help them to recall their past taste experiences and the emotional messages that they delivered. Spices add complexity into the eating experience as their flavour perception finally returns

The full story is here by Oliver Morrison


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Student Research Exhibition 2020

Sensory Flavour & Fragrance Research Exhibition 4th December 2020

Nathaniel Davis


Introduction to the Exhibition
by Nathaniel Davis, Course Author “Role of Flavor and Fragrance in Marketing”

Would you be brave enough to show the universe your first sensory studies? This exhibition is delighted to showcase the marketing insights of group of young Flavor and Fragrance professionals what they learned on the course: “Role of Taste, Flavour and Fragrance in Marketing” .

Join us on Friday 4th December to see their research posters and listen to a discussion with Nathaniel Davis.

The Online Exhibition is free on and after 4th December 2020.


This exhibition celebrates the work of:

Alice De Benito Cassadó –  “What it is to be Young” Fragrance

Alice De Benito Cassadó

Since I was a child l’ve been in love with the Mediterranean Sea and its flora. Born and raised in Barcelona I would spent whole afternoons in the coasts of Valencia, Menorca and Nice, just getting lost in their unique landscapes. During the quarantine I really treasured those memories of summer. And it was precisely recalling them what inspired me to create this perfume, the third of my collection, which helped me return to those days: What it is to be young … It was such a great experience as an artist to be able to engage in a journey so full of fragrance and flavor, as well as it was as a pharmacist and perfumer to experiment with interesting psychometric tools. But what really made me enjoy the experience the most was the possibility to let other people feel what I felt and be what I was. THIS IS, IN OTHER WORDS, ONE MEANING OF ART.

  • Viktor Michalek – “Madeline” Cake

Hi! My name is Viktor Michalek, 25 years old and fascinated by food and flavors. I am currently living on the French Riviera where I was born too. I’ve been a Food Science engineer specialized in Quality Management for 2 years. I have been involved in a start-up project to create a plant-based innovative product.
As a tribute to the French pastry, I chose the emblematic Madeleine cake to conduct this Marketing study. This timeless sweet product triggers many emotions and memories, especially its flavor profile that transports people in their childhood. Between tradition and innovation, this pastry keeps convincing all generations for many occasions.


Yuliya Kolomeets – “Raffaello” Confectionery

Yuliya Kolomeets

My name is Yuliya Kolomeets. I am a Russian-born and French-raised chemist currently based in Berlin. Having already obtained a master degree in Medicinal chemistry, I decided to spend some time looking at what else a chemist can do outside of the lab and academia. I have therefore enrolled MSc Management in Flavour and Fragrance Industry program at Cote d’Azur University. We are learning management concepts, getting some insights of flavour and fragrance industry and are trying ourselves in marketing. As a part of my studying program, I did a mini marketing research on Raffaello sweets and how they are perceived by the consumers. I found that taking a classic treat that almost everyone have had at least once would help me to master my skills in the marketing field. I found it could very well illustrate the concepts we have seen in class and ease questioning the people who agreed to participate. Indeed, I could collect the expected data and the results were quite satisfying. You can check them out in my presentation!


Mame-Kani Diop – ” Gucci’s Hortus Sanitatis” Fragrance

Mame-Kani Diop

Mame-Kani is a fragrance marketing student interested in both the science and business aspects of perfumery.
She has been working in luxury fragrance sampling for the past two years in Paris.
Being from a culturally diverse background, she found herself drawn to more atypical and complex fragrances from niche perfumers and private collections, eventually falling in love with the hypnotic blend of Gucci’s H.Sanitatis.


  • Adit Shah – “Ballantine’s Finest Blended Scotch” Whisky

  • Ahmad Tirmuzi – “Milo” Beverage

Ahmad Tirmuzi

Hi! I am Ahmad Tirmuzi. I am from Singapore which is where I was born too. I have a strong interest and passion for the flavour and fragrance industry and have been working as a Quality Control/Quality Assurance for more than a year.
I chose the chocolate malt drink, Milo, a product by Nestle for this marketing study. This chocolate malt energy drink is very popular here in Singapore as most people have been drinking it since young. Thus, it triggers many emotions and childhood memories in people. In Singapore, it is easily available and is an alternative choice of drink to coffee and tea sold at coffee shops. It is a great convenient drink for everyone.

  • Camille Jacquot – Orange Blossom

Camille Jacquot

Hi ! My name is Camille Jacquot, I’m 20 and from Franche-Comté, France. I studied chemistry for three years before integrating the master management of the flavor and fragrance industry. I had hyposmia as a child and thus wasn’t able to smell properly for a few years, once I got my sense back I would smell anything I could get my hands on. Now I’m passionate about olfaction and I intend to build a career out of it, that is my revenge on my nose kind of. I chose orange blossom as my study case for its strong sentimental hold on me and because it can be used both as a fragrance and an aroma. It embodies on its own a set of contrasts that mesmerizes many. Are you one of them ? I know I am