Warwick’s Wonka explores the world of pure imagination
Professor of Visualisation Alan Chalmers, an expert in flavour simulation at the University of Warwick, discusses the most famous creations of Willy Wonka ahead of the film premiere this December.
“While we may not have discovered the source of snozzberries, our research invites everyone to wonder about the extraordinary possibilities within the science of flavours” – Professor Chalmers.
Professor Chalmers is the creator of an exciting new flavour experience in a virtual way, with the opportunity to taste almost anything in a sip. The process takes samples of food for analysis, to accurately simulate a real flavour by extracting its tastes, aromas, and mouthfeel. His research has placed him as Warwick’s Willy Wonka.
“We can take a person on a journey through the vast flavour space from the start flavour to a variant that they enjoy”.
Three-course meal bubble-gum:
“Flavour is just the sensation of the taste, aroma and mouthfeel of food or drink in your mouth. If you take the real food or drink and analyse them to extract these components – then they can simply be authentically simulated with UK Food Standards Agency food-safe chemicals.
So, you take a fork full of roast turkey, gravy, Brussel sprouts and a bit of roast potato … and analyse it with specialist devices to extract exactly what the taste, aroma and mouthfeel components are for this food ensemble. Once you have this “recipe” you simply recreate this exact flavour with the food-safe chemicals – with a specific food-safe chemical for each component, for example, sucrose is used to simulate the sweetness component.
The correct combinations of these chemicals can then be embedded in chewing gum … and voila – as you bite down on the chewing gum – you will experience the same flavour – as if you just had eaten the real roast turkey, gravy, Brussel sprouts and roast potato.”
“This would be quite straightforward to do. You simply need to embed the food-safe chemicals for each of the components of the desired flavour into the wallpaper – and as it is licked – so the flavour will be perceived.”
“I could imagine a ball of eg hard plastic which is impregnated with a sweet flavour. The sweet won’t get smaller - but at some point the sweet flavour will have to be replenished. This will depend how often the gobstopper is sucked and how hard! I could imagine the centre of the plastic ball contains the liquid and this is drawn out as the person sucks. The liquid could be replaced when required.
Not sure it is a sweet I would want – I think I will stick to chocolate!”
Notes to editors
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The technology was not originally created with inspiration from the infamous chocolatier. The theory behind the invention is that changes in a person's taste and smell senses could be an early indication of Alzheimer’s before signs of memory loss arise. The easy-to-use low-cost dispenser could be used by a nurse as part of an annual health check, in pharmacies, care homes, community centres and even in the home. Researchers hope to achieve UK-wide screening services where members of the public can take a simple smell and taste test. Those who perform poorly can then be referred for further tests which could result in an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Professor Chalmers said: “At the moment, people who present with symptoms of memory loss are referred for MRI scans and spinal fluid tests to confirm a diagnosis. By the time memory loss occurs, things are often too late; pioneering drug treatments only perform well in the early stages of degeneration.