Taste controversy

By ayr May 5, 2017

I was speaking at an event called the Future of Food at the Museum of Science. This was a collection of really interesting food folks. People who do food on TV. Michael Davis from James Beard who did the America Pavilion at the World’s Fair. A woman (I can’t remember her name) who ran product development for Starbucks. Farmers. A bunch of different food people.

During my panel we were asked what we think is the #1 most important thing we see changing the food landscape in the future. I said taste. I think that many of the issues we see and feel concerned about center around taste. The more we all focus on making food taste better the better our food systems will perform, for our bodies, for our environment, for our communities.

And here’s the funny part, I totally hit a nerve. I wasn’t expecting that at all. There were a bunch of folks raising their hands in the audience. It couldn’t happen. People don’t care what food tastes like and you can fool them with artificial and natural flavors (Starbucks Product Dev person, no joke). I was classist. It had people upset. And after the panel people came up to me. Upset. It was such a strong reaction Wanda, my CFO, who happened to be in the audience, stood up to testify that yes, she has seen what I’m talking about. That people really do care what things taste like, and that we can all improve our palettes. And that when we do we eat more carefully, and eat better foods.

It was surprising to me. And I’ve been thinking on it since. And I still have no idea! Such a puzzle. Maybe because so much of the past 50 years of food hasn’t been about taste. Maybe because people in the industry just believe customers don’t care about taste and that’s why it’s OK to peddle terrible tasting foods. I don’t know. But there’s something I need to understand better.

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