Taste is a highly intimate response, and unlike our other senses, we have full control over the stimulation of taste. Our preferences for taste are biologically programmed for survival, and taste, as an important constituent of flavor, is a primal response. Anatomically, there are various papillae located in different parts of the tongue and these contain the taste buds and receptors that pick up signals for our basic tastes : salty, acid, sweet, bitter, and that one nobody ever seems to remember, or even know at all, umami. Sociologically, we must take into account the taste parameters that have a very unique effect on anyone’s perception of the way something might taste. Your specific traits create the uniqueness of a taste when you consider your personal genetic factors and cultural differences, such as an affinity toward sweetness or bitterness, while also considering that regionalized taste comes from extrinsic factors, and the intrinsic tastes that link to any sensitivities or aversions you might have, and then, of course, there are any number of biochemical reasons, just based on where in the world you live, that will no doubt leave an impression. In the end, you taste with your brain, and taking into account these factors, independent of the stimulus, will heavily influence your individual flavor perception and liking, whether you like it or not. Demographics, hormonal state, satiation state, memory, expectation, and the very context in which you are consuming, are all important taste parameters.
Taste qualities offer a rather limited range of sensations, and it’s really aroma that offers the distinction amongst thousands of flavors. This is why it’s so hard to distinguish wintergreen vs. spearmint / mango vs. peach / beef vs. lamb / or a potato vs. an onion, with your nose pinched or with a bad head cold. The aromatic component of flavor is the most informative, and the sense of smell can create favorable, strong, and unique associations with any food or beverage product. In order for the aroma to become part of the enduring brand image, it must be identified as compatible with the desired perception, and subsequent flavor profile, which is precisely why brands are ultimately trying to build an emotional link with their consumers, and flavors are intimately linked with emotions. They just can’t help it. Selecting the right flavor corresponding to a specific emotion can support the emotional positioning of a brand, and also add strong emotional value into the minds of the consumer. Think ‘comfort food’, and you get the idea.