'Virtual' flavours of Marmite created from scratch by Deputy Mayor of Kenilworth at University of Warwick

By James Smith

29th Sep 2023 | Local News

The long-term aim is to enable viewers to be able to "taste" what they see on telly, including cooking shows (image via SWNS)
The long-term aim is to enable viewers to be able to "taste" what they see on telly, including cooking shows (image via SWNS)

The "virtual" flavours of Marmite and its Aussie rival Vegemite have been created from scratch by scientists, including Kenilworth's deputy mayor.

Their long-term aim is to enable viewers to be able to "taste" what they see on TV, including cooking shows.

And the technology could even lead to a breakthrough in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia, according to the research team.

They used state of the art technology that they say can replicate the flavour of almost any food or drink.

Professor Alan Chalmers, of University of Warwick, said the technology can, through taking samples of a food and analysing it, accurately simulate a real flavour by extracting its tastes, aromas, and mouthfeel.

Prof Chalmers - who is also Deputy Mayor of Kenilworth - says his ultimate aim is to be able to replicate the tastes people can see on TV so, for example, viewers could taste a dish too when judges are trying it on a cooking show.

And he said people who are likely to develop Alzheimer's often first lose their sense of taste and smell, and the virtual flavours can be used to identify the moment at which that starts to happen – years before more obvious symptoms such as memory loss.

Deputy Mayor of Kenilworth, Cllr Alan Chalmers (right) with Mayor of Kenilworth Cllr Alix Dearing (image by Jamie Gray)

The analysis is conducted by New-Food Innovation, a high-tech food company and the project created the virtual flavours for World Marmite Day [Sept 28].

Once analysed the virtual flavours are created to accurately match the real flavour using UK Food Standards Agency approved food-safe chemicals.

The work is part of Prof Chalmers' research, along with West Midlands company Superlunary Labs, into how people perceive taste and smell.

He is also investigating whether a poor performance on the new 'taste test' that he has developed, may be an early warning signs for diseases including dementia.

He describes the flavour-making process as the same as using a recipe – by accurately simulating the different components of a flavour, food such as marmite can be replicated with a taste "indistinguishable" from the real thing.

The work is part of a wider project into into how people perceive taste and smell (image via SWNS)

Prof Chalmers said: "We recreated the health drink rooibos tea and even the chief taster of a rooibos manufacturer in South Africa could not distinguish between the real and virtual rooibos.

"I first thought of creating the samples of Marmite and Vegemite for a bit of fun during the Ashes cricket Tests this summer as people kept asking - 'what is the difference between them?'

"It goes back to the serious work we're doing which shows that people's taste and smell can give us clues what's going on in a person's brain years before symptoms such as memory loss start".

Malcolm Barnes, of Superlunary Labs added: "We work alongside Professor Chalmers to ensure virtual flavours are delivered from an easy to use, hygienic and highly calibrated device for Chalmers' team to analyse.'

     

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