Tongue Twister: a multi-sensory food experience by Condiment Junkie

Experience designers Condiment Junkie installed Tongue Twister – a series of rooms and experiments exploring sensory perception – at Westfield Stratford this weekend. Housed in exuberant, Willy Wonka-esque sets, the experiences each explore the interwoven effects of light, colour, scent and flavour on how we taste food.

Guests first take part in The Super-Taster Test, which ascertains how sensitive your palate is to bitter flavours. Super Tasters (who make up about 25% of the population) have unusually high numbers of taste buds on their tongues, making them susceptible to very strong flavours and therefore unlikely to enjoy very spicy or bitter foods. Medium Tasters (50% of people) pick up on bitterness but it will depend on personal preference how they respond to it; Non-Tasters (the remaining 25%) have a much higher tolerance to bitterness, spice and bolder flavours, and will be less interested in subtly-flavoured foods as a result.

In the See Room, the first experiment involves guessing the taste of a drink based solely on its colour, and then reassessing your judgement after tasting it. Does a strawberry drink – coloured blue – taste different to strawberry as you’d expect it, coloured red? And would a murky grey-coloured lemonade taste less appealing than a bright, sunshine-coloured concoction? A second test involves tasting fresh herbs in normal light conditions, and then under a UV light that brings out a pinkish-purple glow – and, possibly, heightens the flavour of the herb in the process.

In the Smell Room, guests are equipped with flavoured jelly beans and tasked with exploring a cluster of bright pink Smell Trumpets, each emitting a different scent. A banana-flavoured jelly bean pairs well with the coconut scent, we found – but is distinctly less appealing to eat inside the curry-flavoured Smell Trumpet. Unexpected hits among my group included lime & black pepper, and mango with gingerbread.

Westfield’s visitors can also explore unexpected pairings of food and scent at the Smell Booths – colourful telephone booths kitted out with six different scent diffusers.

Tongue Twister will now transfer to Westfield London in White City, where the full experience opens this weekend. Commissioned to headline Westfield’s 2015 campaign, The Food Sensation, the event is the retailer’s first dedicated food activation, and reflects the importance of food retail for Westfield: 10% of its sales come from its food vendors.

As consumers become more attuned to multi-sensory design through experiences such as Tongue Twister, previously avant-garde concepts such as scent marketing are moving slowly into the mainstream. Companies who have previously prioritised ‘branding’ a colour (Cadbury’s purple, for example) are now exploring how to associate their ethos with a scent, a texture, a sound or a sensation.

Homebuildlife subscribers can find out more about how designers are exploring sensory perception in innovative ways in our trend forecast A/W 16/17: Food Concepts.

– Sarah Housley

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