Smell has a Major Impact on Taste and Our Purchases

Taste and smell are intimately entwined.  Interestingly, food and drink are identified predominantly by the senses of smell and sight, not taste.  Generally we associate taste to our taste buds, in actuality “taste” is actually a blend of a food’s taste, smell and texture into a single sensation.  The senses taste and smell and very complex.  Smell is a vital part of flavor, when smell is lessened the flavor of food is diminished.  This is caused because only the taste, not the food odors, is being detected.

Only in recent years have taste receptors been identified.  The tongue map, which classified sections of the tongue with specific taste receptors, was debunked in 1974, a scientist named Virginia Collings re-examined Hanig’s work and agreed with his main point:  “There were variations in sensitivity to the four basic tastes around the tongue.  But the variations were small and insignificant.  Collings found that all tastes can be detected anywhere there are taste receptors—around the tongue, on the soft palate at back roof of the mouth, and even in the epiglottis, the flap that blocks food from the windpipe”.tongue_map

“The sensation of flavor is actually a combination of taste and smell,” said Tom Finger, a professor at the University of Colorado-Denver Medical School and chairman of the 2008 International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste, held last month in San Francisco. “If you hold your nose and start chewing a jelly bean taste is limited, but open your nose midway through chewing and then you suddenly recognize apple or watermelon.”  Acquiring information related to scent through the back of the mouth is called retronasal olfaction—via the nostrils it is called orthonasal olfaction.

During the process of chewing air is forced through the nasal passages, carrying the smell of the food along with it.  Without the sensation of smell supplementing taste one would only be able to experience the five taste recognized by taste buds: salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umami.  It’s the odor molecules from food that give us most of our taste sensation.

The process of tasting, described by Dana Small, is “When food and drink are placed in the mouth, taste cells are activated and we perceive a flavor. Concurrently, whatever we are eating or sipping invariably contacts and activates sensory cells, located side-by-side with the taste cells, that allow us to perceive qualities such as temperature, spiciness or creaminess. We perceive the act of touch as tasting because the contact “captures” the flavor sensation,” a neuroscientist as the John B. Pierce Laboratory in New Haven, Conn. and the Yale School of Medicine.

When people’s sense of smell diminishes, for various reasons notably smoking, they are no longer to taste things as well.  Scientists have found that the sense of smell is most accurate between the ages of 30 and 60 years. It begins to decline after age 60, and a large proportion of elderly persons lose their smelling ability.  Additionally, women are more accurate at identifying odors.

Kitchen-Talks-The-aroma-of-foodScent is extremely powerful because it is intertwined with our memories of places and events.  That’s why the smell of grandma’s cookies is so nostalgic.  Unsurprisingly marketers having been trying to incorporate scent into their advertisements and stores in order to boost sales.  Businesses goals are to make customers feel relaxed and comfortable, hoping that they will stay in the stores longer and purchase more.  Some businesses have even created their own signature scent that shoppers will associate with their stores.  Smells have been found to influence memory, impact perception, and even increase sales.

Scent marketing is one of the newer components of advertising.  This process replicates the practice of realtors baking cookies during a homes open house in order to make buyers feel at home.  In a commercial setting liquid scent is vaporized by and dispersed through a building’s ventilation system.  Because smell’s ability to trigger moods is based on memory, a scent’s power will differ from person to person.


Posted on April 3, 2014, in Food, Marketing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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