At The New Food Economy, Nadia Berenstein profiles Jason Cohen, founder of the startup Analytic Flavor Systems. Analytic Flavor Systems wants to make sure you love what you eat: they’ll map you specific taste preferences, and food companies will be able to create tailored offerings that make your particular tastebuds sing.
The point, however, is not macrocosmic trend-tracking, but microcosmic customization: to predictively model the perceptions and preferences of increasingly narrow demographic clusters. “You can enter in a flavor profile for that latte,” Cohen says, pointing to my half-finished drink, “and the system will spit out an optimization—what to change to make it even better.” There is no platonic ideal of a latte, of course. There is only your ideal latte: the one optimized to be maximally delicious to your palate. The Gastrograph would not merely suggest that a seltzer be grapefruit flavored, for instance, but how to tweak its floral, fruity, bitter, and sour dimensions to captivate the fancy of Northeastern millennial guys, or German ladies over forty.
Is this a flavor breakthrough, or an unnecessary endeavor based on a fundamental misunderstanding of sensory science? (And if it is a breakthrough, how long until I get my case of Michelle-optimized La Croix?)