Science serves up a super sandwich for flyers


London Stansted Airport has teamed up with luxury food outlet, Not Always Caviar to create a sandwich designed with flavors that are enhanced at altitude, meaning that this sandwich will taste as good at 35,000ft as it does on the ground.

The sandwich will include Umami-rich ingredients, selected based on scientific food research into the body’s reduced ability to perceive flavors when flying, carried out with food expert, Professor Barry C. Smith, director of the Centre of the Study of the Senses at the University of London. Umami, the fifth taste after sweet, sour, salty and bitter, is tasted through taste receptors that typically respond to glutamate, which is widely present in meat broths and fermented products, and enhances flavor.

The sandwich – branded the Sky High Sandwich – will be available as a signature seafood club (with optional caviar sauce) or a salt beef deli sandwich. Both sandwiches will include an umami blend spice ingredient, to give punchy flavors that trigger key receptors in the mouth – important as taste buds can be less receptive at high altitude. This food science is not entirely new to aviation, as similar ideas have been employed by some airlines for their business class meals; however, this sandwich makes it available to all – or at least all passengers from Stansted.

Professor Barry Smith explained,“Science shows that the combination of dry air and low pressure during flights reduces our sensitivity to food aromas. Additionally, the sound of white noise at 80 decibels or above has an impact on the brain’s ability to perceive sweet, salt and sour from the tongue – reducing its intensity by about 10-15%. In an aircraft cabin you are subjected to white noise of around 89 decibels. This will greatly reduce the flavors we can taste whilst flying.

“Foods rich in umami provide depth of flavor and boost other basic tastes like salt, sweet and sour. Umami is also immune to the effects of white noise on our perception of taste. Another way of boosting flavor mid-flight – where the altitude and white noise levels are high – is to combine different types of umami-rich foods – creating synergistic umami. This occurs when foods with naturally occurring glutamates are combined with others that contain nucleotides. Foods that combine these ingredients will produce a product that’s packed with flavor – even at 35,000ft”.

Food Expert, Barry C Smith, explains the food science behind the Sky-High Sandwich

Food Expert, Barry C Smith, explains the food science behind the Sky-High Sandwich

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About Author


Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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