Why the smells and tastes of certain foods can bring the past back to life

And for you, the sensory trigger could be hot buttered toast, tuck shop fish-and-chips or your nonna’s spaghetti and meatballs.

These are all examples of food nostalgia – the powerful link between the sights, tastes and smells of food and your most treasured memories. The food manufacturers know it. And they exploit it, tapping into the delicate interplay between sense and memory to sell the taste of your childhood back to you.

“Search for websites with the word ‘candy’ combined with ‘vintage’, ‘retro’, or ‘nostalgia’, and it becomes readily apparent that many people use candy as a pathway to the past,” wrote John S. Allen, author of The Omnivorous Mind: Our Evolving Relationship with Food.

His own experience with a Bit-OHoney candy bar – an American sticky taffy treat he had not eaten in close to four decades – took him right back to his childhood.

Woolworths drew the ire of the internet when some stores started stocking hot cross buns two days after Christmas. And “Is Cadbury’s new block awesome or evil?” asked The Guardian of the 2015 release of Vegemite chocolate, which sold 1.2 million blocks in three weeks.

Arnott’s and Peters are hoping to be on a winner with the new flavour Drumstick, Sweet and Salty Cracker, inspired by Jatz crackers.

“The new flavour also taps into the sweet and salty trend that is hugely popular among Millennials,” said Peters’ head of marketing, Alicia Munday.

In other ice-cream-related news, Golden Gaytime introduced three flavours last year: Pina Colada, Choc Mint McMint Face and the Unicorn.

These “limited edition” flavours are not expected to last the distance, unlike New Coke, CocaCola’s response to the rise of rival Pepsi in 1985.

But that new flavour was one of the worst marketing decisions of all time. Some felt as if they had lost an old friend. Others compared it to a death in the family

The grief went beyond the alleged “great new taste”: Coca-Cola was playing with the memories of consumers who had formed many of their early experiences with an icy-cold can of Coke in their hands. The return of the classic Coke a few months later was hailed like the Second Coming among the cola faithful.

The quest to pair the tangy taste of nostalgia with the zest of “the new” is often doomed to failure. Because it’s not just about the taste. It’s about the memories.

Source: Why the smells and tastes of certain foods can bring the past back to life

Random sensory quotes

“Soft is the music that would charm for ever;

The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.”

— William Wordsworth