So you still think you can only taste with your mouth?! Why do we consume 35 percent more food when we eat together with someone else, and even 75 percent more when we eat in the company of three others? How can it be explained that coffee lovers drink more coffee when exposed to bright light? Why does tomato juice make up 27 percent of all drinks ordered in an aeroplane? Why do crisps taste better when they’re crunchy? And how is it possible that food tastes saltier on a blue plate and food that you have photographed tastes better?

‘Why do crisps taste better when they’re crunchy?’

These questions, along with many others, were answered by Charles Spence after a large-scale study performed together with ‘gastrophysicists’, chefs and restaurant owners who experimented with the experiences that they presented their guests. Think of eating oysters whilst hearing the sounds of the ocean or a waiter spoon-feeding you jelly.

Charles Spence is a professor at the University of Oxford and has proven that we not only experience taste through our mouths and noses, but also through context and associations. A fascinating vision on the science behind food and how our perception is shaped by all our senses, and not just taste. Gastrophysics is particularly interesting for the food industry, considering the growing demand for healthier mass products without consumers complaining about taste. As soon as a package states that the product contains less salt, people start making complaints. If you very gradually reduce the amount of salt in a product, without mentioning it on the packaging, people don’t even notice. Gastrophysicists have also discovered ways to reduce the amount of sugar needed in a product, for example by rounding the edges of a chocolate bar. This makes the chocolate taste sweeter, which in turn enables the use of less sugar.