So now we know – airline food isn’t that bland after all, it’s the cabin noise that makes it seem so.
A team of scientists think they’ve worked out that the level of background noise affects intensity of flavour and perceived crunchiness. While louder sound reduces the reported sweetness or saltiness, it increases the measure of crunch.
“There’s a general opinion that aeroplane foods aren’t fantastic,” said Andy Woods, one of the researchers. “I’m sure airlines do their best and given that, we wondered if there are other reasons why the food would not be so good. One thought was perhaps the background noise has some impact,” he told BBC News.
In a comparatively small study, 48 participants were fed sweet foods such as biscuits, or salty ones such as crisps, while listening to silence or noise through headphones. In noisier settings, foods were rated less salty or sweet than they were in the absence of background noise, but were rated to be more crunchy.
Caterers have long been aware that they need to add large amounts of salt or sugar to the meals and the ‘white noise’ experience while flying could be the reason.
by Andy Moreton