The Taste of Industrialization

Artificial Flavoring and Authenticity

Steen Brock and Susanne Højlund


Our sense of taste helps us identify food and define our identity (Fischler). When we recognize a certain flavor we are able to recall memories from our childhood or from our home (Sutton). With our sense of taste we are able to place ourselves in a certain cuisine with specific flavor principles (Rozin) – and thereby create a feeling of safety, authenticity and belonging. These statements are wellknown within food anthropology and food philosophy. But what happens when taste is industrialized and globalized? Through the last 50 years it has become more and more invisible where our food comes from, and more and more difficult to use our sense of taste to define the food –– we are no longer able to make references between foodstuff and taste– or between taste, place (terroir) or time. According to Mark Schatzker we are suffering from the so-called Dorito Effect – a tortilla chips does no longer refer to the taste of corn, but is differently flavored according to the current ‘taste fashion’, defined by the food industry. A yoghurt does no longer refer to the taste of sour milk, but makes you think of strawberry or pineapple.
In this paper we discuss how industrialization of food – and especially artificial flavoring introduce an inauthentic moment within our sense of taste. Invoking a strategic view in relation to the food industry (Pine and Gilmore) we acknowledge that this in-authenticity in certain cases might lead to new prospects for appropriating what we eat in valuable ways. However, we also argue that the person, whose taste has been reconfigured accordingly, is subject to a “forced positioning” (Harré) to the effect that persons have lost authority in relation to the food they eat. Since neither full transparency in the food chain nor real co-creation in all parts of that chain is a realistic option we suggest that the best strategy of the individual consumer is to find ways of balancing in-authority and in-authenticity.