When you first come across the idea of ‘sensory food’, the idea can seem pretty strange. Surely, since taste is one of our senses, and all food has a taste, all food is sensory?
Well, yes and no. The idea of ‘sensory food’ definitely includes foods with intense and unusual flavours, but also means far more than this. Sensory food is food that appeals not just to our sense of taste, but also to our other senses.
What are Sensory Food and Beverages?
The classic examples of sensory food and drink are Coca Cola and Kit-Kat, both of whom have spent years (and many thousands of pounds) on marketing campaigns based on the sound, rather than the taste of their products: the hiss of a can of Coke opening, and the sharp crack of a Kit-Kat bar snapping.
More recently, the idea of sensory and drink has exploded. It is now used extensively by food and drink manufacturers, restaurants, and our focus here, catering for events. Manufacturers are aware than Millenials want their snacks, for example, to immediately emanate the smell of their central flavors, according to a recent survey published in Bakery and Snacks. Other brands have developed unusual packaging, as FoodDive have reported, even where this is more expensive, in order to provide a ‘sensorial playground’ for their customers.
Today, we’re going to take a look at how you can apply these same techniques in planning an event. Using sensory food and beverages during your event – whether it is large or small, corporate or not – has many advantages: it can help to create a particular feel, or just to make your event highly memorable.
How to Create a Sensory Food Experience
When it comes to providing your guests with a sensory food experience, we’ve got one major piece of advice: ask the experts.
Here at Mask Events we’ve helped dozens of customers provide sensory food and beverage experiences for their guests. We do this by working closely with the event organisers, and also in close collaboration with our catering partners, Create. Create can provide a huge range of different food experiences, and can tailor their menus to fit your vision.
When it comes to the specific details of the experience you want to provide, though, the choice is all yours. We’ve heard (and then helped to create!) some pretty far-out concepts over the years, so even if you think your idea is pretty strange, give us a call – we’d love to hear it.
We know that getting started with a concept for a sensory food experience can be a bit tricky, though. That’s why we’ve pulled together a few ideas to get you started.
Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream is a great way to add a touch of magic to your events. If you haven’t seen Nitro Ice Cream being made before, you are in for a treat: a nitro chef will can take almost any flavour and freeze it instantly into an ice cream.
The process generates plenty of dry ice mist as well, giving a really theatrical flair to the proceedings, and filling your event with delicious aromas.
Many companies can provide Nitrogen Ice Cream machines, and most of them will allow you to suggest your own flavours. Even better, the contraptions used to make Nitro Ice Cream are quite spectacular in themselves, and can add an unusual visual element to your party decorations.
Edible Mist is another great way to stimulate your guests’ senses. Using ultrasonic vapourisation, these machines create a mist that can be inhaled through a straw. The mist can be loaded with a huge range of different flavours: everything from chocolate to basil to banana to whiskey.
And perhaps best of all, the mist is completely calorie-free!
Edible Mist installations are a great way to keep your guests entertained, but they can also have more practical applications. Some companies have used them at conference stands to draw in potential customers, and others for associating their brand with a particular flavour combination.
Because Edible Mist machines can produce so many flavours, they are also a great way to create or elaborate the theme of your event. You can use them to give your guests a taste of tropical fruits during a beach-themed party, for instance, or even use them to deliver festive flavours during a christmas event.
Theming Your Venue
A more low-tech (but very effective!) way of creating a sensory experience for your guests is to integrate the theme of your party with the venue you choose. Here at Mask we are proud to offer a huge range of different venues, and can recommend venues for parties and events of all kinds.
A very popular theme, for instance, is to book a venue with a large, open, outdoor space, and to hold a summer garden party. The food you serve can then be themed around English classics – think cucumber sandwiches and Pimms – elevated by the genteel and aristocratic environment.
Another approach is to hire a venue with plenty of vintage charm, of which there are many in London, and hold an old-school Christmas party. The experience of dining in an oak-panelled room, or under a centuries-old chandelier, is sure to bring out the flavours of traditional festive fayre.
If yo u really want to give your guests a full sensory experience, you can consider using projection screens and sounds to immerse them in your theme. This might sound like a strange idea, but in fact plenty of high-end restaurants are now experimenting with audio and video to take their food to the next level.
Like many of the sensory food ideas on this list, the way that you use video and audio will depend on the theme of your party. For a Christmas party, for instance, surrounding your guests with screens showing falling snow can really add to the dining experience.
There are also some more creative ways that you can use video and audio. You could theme all the food and drink at your party around a particular city, for instance, and use sound and video to transport your guests there.
Themed Food and Drink
When thinking about providing your guests with a sensory food experience, don’t forget about the food itself! The most successful examples of sensory food experiences come when you are able to integrate all the parts of your event into a theme, so that the venue, decorations, and the food you serve all go together.
Here at Mask we’ve organised thousands of events over the years, and have received all kinds of weird and wacky suggestions for menus. We work closely with our clients, and with our award-winning caterers Create, to produce bespoke dinners that are exactly what you have in mind.
So whether you want some Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream at your beach party, or a taste of vintage London for your Christmas Dinner, give us a call today, and we can help you to offer your guests an immersive sensory food experience.
How (and How Not) to Use Sensory Foods
Ultimately, every element of your event should contribute to your aims in organizing it. This goes for the food you serve, but also the sensory elements that accompany this food.
And whilst some of the suggestions we’ve made above – like playing the right kind of music – are important in any process of event organizing, be aware that some of the other techniques can certainly be overused. Your guests might respond with delight to a cocktail in your corporate colours, for example. They might be less pleased with an evening of foods based entirely on Brussel sprouts, even if you’ve just opened an office in Belgium.
All this is to say that using sensory techniques in food requires subtlety and expertise. Luckily, at Mask Events we’ve good loads of both. If you’ve been inspired by the ideas above, give us a call, and we can make some specific suggestions based on the theme of your event.