What’s with all the crazy flavours?
The food companies’ insatiable demand for novelty has hit ludicrous heights, says Jane Hutchison.
The flavours may be new but they’re certainly not improved – and for this writer they leave a very bad taste in the mouth.
I’m suffering from flavour fatigue, which usually strikes when I’m food shopping. I’m exhausted by the multiplicity of flavours that food producers add to otherwise perfectly good products.
Displays of glossy sausages in an array of varieties are likely to set me off. Apple and sage might be at the more acceptable end of the spectrum, but these sausages could be displayed next to ones flavoured with cranberry and halloumi, or banana and madras. These may be winning flavour combos in the correct context, but not for sausages – which in my view should taste of pork or beef. The great British banger isn’t supposed to be sophisticated fare; it’s comfort food – reliable, reassuring and predictable.
The number of food products now marketed ‘with a twist’ is beginning to feel a little bit twisted.
What most of us like about our tea of choice is that, whether it’s darjeeling or English breakfast, it tastes of tea. Yet even Britain’s favourite beverage isn’t safe. Salted caramel green tea is now on supermarket shelves.
Adding salted caramel surely deprives the drink of its green tea-ness, making it something altogether different. Personally, I steer clear of green tea because I think it tastes of puddle. Is the salted caramel added for people like me? Is that comforting sweet caramel flavour supposed to mask the puddly taste and encourage me to drink the tea?
Making fashionable foods palatable to more customers could explain a few of the bizarre flavours now available, but mostly it seems these are a ploy to keep the interest of customers presumed childlike in their need for novelty. Are we really so fickle that we can’t stick with a product unless it’s constantly evolving?
''I struggle to see how anyone could imagine there’s a gap in the market for duck à l’orange chocolates''
The latest fad I’ve noticed is citrus-flavoured crisps – another level of wrong, which, along with prosecco-flavoured crisps, needs to be consigned to a file marked ‘ill conceived’. And no thanks, I don’t want ‘ancient grains’ in my granola, or my bread. Ancient grains make me think of mildewed old oats in a rat-infested silo.
It’s not just savoury products, of course. Nothing is sacred. Ice cream with chunks of chocolate and swirls of sauce was already exciting; we didn’t need more bells and whistles – pretzels, fudge-covered almonds, marshmallows, uncooked cookie dough – it just adds stress to the once-pleasant task of choosing an ice cream.
For me, finding a rose petal in a square of chocolate is akin to finding a false eyelash in a doughnut, so I struggle to see how anyone could imagine there’s a gap in the market for duck à l’orange chocolates (yes, they really exist).
It’s enough to drive me to drink – usually gin. But let’s be clear: raspberry gin is not gin – it’s a liqueur. Ditto violet gin, bakewell tart gin, pineapple gin and (I can hardly bring myself to type it) chocolate and mint gin. Call me traditional, but I like gin-flavoured gin – oh, and served with tonic-flavoured tonic.
Subscribe to our magazine
Food stories, skills and tested recipes, straight to your door... Enjoy 5 issues for just £5 with our special introductory offer.Subscribe
Unleash your inner chef
Looking for inspiration? Receive the latest recipes with our newsletter