FFE Magazine

British Airways adds secret ingredient to flight Meals

by FFE EU News staff

British Airways adds secret ingredient to flight Meals

While most airlines are battling each other out through passenger seat width and excess baggage fees, the UK’s flag carrier British Airways (BA) is looking at the pantrys.

Bland airline food has always been a key issue among passengers. But according to a research by the airline company and Leatherhead Food Research, they are the result of cold, dry cabin conditions, high-altitude pressure, grey cabin lighting and passenger stress levels. However, BA is planning to bring back the flavor in food through a best-kept Japanese ingredient: umami.

Umami is considered ‘the fifth basic sense’ and exists alongside sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The taste was discovered by Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908 who observed that umami was the key savoury factor in food like tomatoes, meat and Parmesan cheese.

BA has been working on umami-rich airline food for the past year and, with the help of London’s five-star Langham hotel, has come up with a menu for first-class cabins. One example is the pork belly and pork cheek with lime and lemon grass sauce.

The updated menu featuring the ‘umami factor’ was introduced to BA by chef Heston Blumenthal, known for his experimental and scientific approach to food. He has had experience cooking for passengers at 35,000ft in the air in an episode of his Channel 4 series ‘Heston’s Mission Impossible.’ In the show, he said ‘You can’t load more salt but you can definitely up the umami.’

BA is also using other strategies to make sure their food isn’t bitter. Steam ovens to heat bread have been installed in their first class cabins, and wines have also been tweaked to taste fruitier. The company has also tapped English tea brand Twinings to serve a unique concoction of Kenya, Assam and High Ceylon teas for high-altitude drinkers.

Food quality has been a deciding factor for airline passengers not only for their taste but also for the price. A research conducted last summer revealed that airlines charge more for in-flight food and drink than supermarkets.

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