When we talk about insights in branding, at its heart is the concept of ‘constructed meanings’. Simply put, many things around us have powerful meanings that are constructed, not inherent. For example, the meaning of red rose as a symbol of love.
Now consider this in the context of tasty food.
Have you ever wondered how some foods that you would consider disgusting are cherished as delicacies in some cultures? Not just what is eaten, but how it is cooked differs starkly across cultures – fried, smoked, boiled, baked, spicy, bland… What is ‘delicious’ to one set of people is ‘how-can-you-eat this-stuff!’ bad to others.
The taste of food is less about the food, more about its constructed meaning for us.
What we are fed while growing up becomes our primary idea of good taste. So when we find something tasty, we are essentially acknowledging its familiarity (and the associated emotions with its consumption). Which is why there is no food like mom’s food.
So how do we enjoy foods that come from other culture? You might ask.
In some cases, while the food is alien, the taste is familiar. Pizza and burgers and not too far off from tastes familiar to us, what changes is the format.
More importantly, their consumption represents other cultural values – such as modernity, freedom (from home) which makes them ‘taste’ even better.
When Nestle brought Maggi to India, it created familiarity through the masala, many other flavours they launched remained fringe and we embraced the foreign noodles with the desi masala.
And sometimes, the cultural value of appreciating certain foods is so high, we ‘acquire’ tastes that are alien. Think wine, cheese, green tea…sushi
As with everything else, the full picture is multi-dimensional, many factors play a role in our loving or hating certain foods. Our tastebuds play at best a supporting role.