How visuals enrich the dining experience
Research
A Sensory Feast: How Visuals Enrich the Dining Experience

Neuro-cuisine is a complex and fascinating subject and one that all foodies out there should seriously get on board with.

As you’ll have discovered in our blog ‘What Makes a Memorable Meal? Neuro-Cuisine Introduces Sensory Seasoning’ taste, or rather the perception of taste, comes down to so much more than what our papilla can translate. As self-proclaimed gastro-adventurers, we feel as though it is our duty to not only bring you sensational (quite literally) cutlery to enhance your dining experience, but to also fill you in on all the latest sensorial findings to aid you in creating the very best food journey with each and every meal.

It’s subtle things that can make all the difference, so knowing the choices you can make to bring out certain flavours, dull others and combine the two for a perfect ‘edible symphony’ is vitally important. With so much to explore and utilise, there was no way that we could fit all the information into a single blog, so we’re breaking it down for you in a practical guide, starting with visuals.

Flavour is in the eye of the beholder…

Did you know that ‘visual hunger’ and ‘digital satiation’ is a thing? In short, what this means is arresting images of beautifully-portrayed, succulent food is enough to get those hunger pangs going…and then satisfy them. Without so much as a single bite touching your lips, nay, without the actual presence of physical food, your mind and body can feel as though it has enjoyed the meal that you have merely laid eyes on in photo-form. So what does this tell us? If simply looking at an image of food can have this affect, just think what results visuals combined with real-life delicious food can yield!

From design to lighting, colours to food placement. From the plate you eat off of to the cutlery you use and the table setting you choose to lay it all out in: all of these food-extrinsic considerations can make or break a meal.

Here are some easy-to-action visual tips, taken right from the findings of Gastrophysics professor Charles Spence, that you can start implementing today to transform your dining experience:

To enhance sweet flavours…

• The colour red makes sweet flavours more intense. Red lighting, red plates and even red food…inject some red into the dining experience and you’ll taste results.
• Don’t fancy using a red plate? Try a round white plate for a sweeter and more flavourful sweet treat!
• Higher pitched music makes for a sweeter meal, so choose the background music the time your serve your dessert wisely.
• Serve food in a round shape on a round plate to boost the perception of sweetness.
• The softer the food, the sweeter the taste. Add contrast with a few crunchy elements such as pecans on a pecan pie.
• Target the taste-buds with our creative dining Taster Spoons.

To enhance salty flavours…

• The shape of your cutlery vastly alters the perception of salty flavours. Studies have shown that eating cheese from a knife rather than a spoon or toothpick tasted saltier.
• A textured or rough spoon can create a salty flavour without even a trace of sodium in the food! Try our textured spoons and see for yourself.
• Use the word ‘salty’ on a menu to activate the same cognitive expectations as when a salty flavour is actually experienced in the mouth
• Although colour has less of an impact on salty flavour perception (thought to be due to the fact that salt is associated with many different foods), there is a stronger sense of saltiness when white is used, either for the food itself or the plates.

To enhance bitter flavours…

• Low-pitched sounds bring out the bitter taste in food.
• Red food colouring lowers the detection for the taste of bitterness.
• Jagged shapes and sounds make for a more bitter taste, so try serving this food with ‘shards’ and hard edges.

To enhance sour flavours…

• Generally, our sour receptors have a very low threshold, so a little goes a long way and it doesn’t take much to get the enhancement to the right level. It’s more about balance here, so perfect sour flavours with a little addition of sugar and salt. These will help to bring out the sour, but the reverse does not apply – sour does not bring out other tastes!

To enhance umami flavours…

• Umami (or savoury) taste is the only one that is enhanced by very loud noise, whereas all other tastes are suppressed. This is why a Bloody Mary is the most frequently ordered drink on airplanes – it literally tastes better.
• Thick sauces tend to be perceived as having a stronger umami taste, rather than a thin jus, for example.