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Food Industry Opinion

The Science Behind The Sandwich - Importance of Umami


What makes sandwiches or wraps taste good? Did you know that our tastebuds are affected by factors such as heat, cold and even high altitude? We look at the science behind the sandwich.

The Science Behind The Sandwich - Importance of Umami


"Each filling & flavour profile in our AirWraps have been carefully created to meet 3 main criterion - nutrition, taste & authenticity. Getting that umami balance right is so crucial for the taste."
Anishya Kumar



Food expert Barry Smith has been working with London Stansted Airport and luxury food outlet, Not Always Caviar to create a sandwich that tastes as good at 35,000ft as it does on the ground. Taste buds can be less receptive at high altitude and chilling food also has an effect on our taste buds. All food producers should recognise the importance of food science when it comes to naturally making food flavourful.

The Sky High Sandwich at London Stansted includes an umami blend spice ingredient, to give punchy flavors that trigger key receptors in the mouth.  What is umami? It's that fifth taste after sweet, sour, salty and bitter. We taste it through taste receptors that typically respond to glutamate. This element is is widely present in fermented dishes and broths and enhances flavor.  

“Foods rich in umami provide depth of flavor and boost other basic tastes like salt, sweet and sour. Umami is also immune to the effects of white noise on our perception of taste." explains Professor Barry C. Smith, director of the Centre of the Study of the Senses at the University of London. "Another way of boosting flavour mid-flight – where the altitude and white noise levels are high – is to combine different types of umami-rich foods – creating synergistic umami. This occurs when foods with naturally occurring glutamates are combined with others that contain nucleotides. Foods that combine these ingredients will produce a product that’s packed with flavour – even at 35,000ft”.

At Zinda Foods we believe the key in Professor Smith's quote is finding ingredients with "naturally occuring glutamates". That's why we choose ingredients such as olives, feta and apricots in our Mediterranean Feta AirWraps pictured above. Each filling & flavour profile in our AirWraps have been carefully created to meet 3 main criterion - nutrition, taste & authenticity. Getting that umami balance right is so crucial for the taste.

As with sandwiches sold at London Stansted Airport, we want all our wraps to be naturally tasty and not enhanced with synthetic flavourings, preservatives or additives. This lack of preservatives and additives in our wrap base itself, also means the umami flavours can stand up more with no interference. Next time you choose a sandwich or wrap look at the ingredients on the label and think about all those sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavours. That combination of flavours will make the difference between a flat & disappointing tasting lunch to one you'll remember.  You have food science and umami to thank for that!

Our AirWraps are available in over 70 Tesco stores across London so you can discover the difference yourself.

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