The Future of Flavor Contests?

From chips and ice cream to beer and chicken wing sauces, brands use flavor contests to engage consumers and test the market for new flavor ideas.

But what the consumer has in mind for a flavor, and what the brand creates, can be a world apart. Individual flavors can cover a wide spectrum of tastes. Just imagine the tropical fruit of a pineapple. Are you thinking of the sticky sweetness or the acidic tartness? A good pineapple is said to have a balance of both. This distinction is important because many foods have multi-dimensional flavors, combining different aspects of sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy. And when two or more flavors are mixed together, there’s an even greater range of possibilities. The interpretation is left up to the brand.

Some emerging high-tech kitchen appliances could change the way some of these flavor contests are run. 3D printers for food and flavor robots may offer consumers unprecedented ability to experiment with flavors, shapes, and textures the way commercial test labs can. These gadgets in essence are not much different than the way a Keurig coffee machine works. Consumers will buy flavor pods (or make their own at home), use a simple interface to select how much of each flavor to include, and the machine will do the rest; mixing, printing, and potentially even cooking the ingredients into something that resembles real food (because it is real food).

A home chef will be able to record and share their creations – and they’ll be replicated exactly by a machine in a kitchen on the other side of the world.

Consumers will be able to conjure up new creations with highly nuanced flavors and submit the flavor data file online. There won’t be any doubt what they had in mind. Of course, with so many unique flavors to test, brands may need to rely onrobot taste testers to select the winners.

Want to read more about 3D printed food? Check out

Michael Vidikan is the CEO of Future in Focus, a strategic foresight research and consulting firm. Future in Focus helps organizations see years or even decades into the future so they can make better long-term decisions.

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