A different perspective on molecular flavouring with ATOMA.

December 21st 2018

Where does the strong preference of natural flavouring come from and why do we see artificial aromas as inferior to flavouring extracted from e.g. real fruits? This was one of the interesting subjects at the Future Food event we attended in Amsterdam, last Friday the 14th of December.

In total, there are 11.000 aroma molecules known by science that can trigger our taste. Currently, the “big boys” in the food industry work with more than 2.000 molecules at a time to design flavours we nowadays experience in our food.

As the consumer mainly wants natural flavouring instead of artificial flavouring, food designer Alexandra Genis researched the consequences of this demand. “Nature alone can’t sustain our food habits. Why would do we feel entitled to take a field of strawberries and use it to make jam or ice cream?” Nature can’t produce or sustain the amounts needed for products on the supermarket shelves.

Here at Queal, we think this a very interesting perception and therefore decided to write our December’s inspirations post about Alexandra’s concept ATOMA.

What is it?

After reading “no artificial flavouring” on a jar of yoghurt, Alexandra wondered why added or - so-called - artificial flavouring is perceived negatively. These labels have become a norm in relation to food products, putting customers in a certain direction. After researching this subject she found out that there are around 11.000 aroma molecules to trigger our taste. These can either be found in natural foods or be synthesised. She asked herself: “Why can’t each molecule be a spice?” And so began her journey towards “ATOMA”. A way to let consumers make peace with science.

ATOMA responds to the current flavouring circumstances by taking the industrial molecules and adapting them for easy and convenient use. It is a spice collection that enables the domestic kitchen use of these flavouring. It is made up of molecular compounds, responsible for different tastes. For example, the well-known strawberry aroma consists of 24 compounds we can taste. She used these 24 molecules to make 24 spices, translated into 3D molecules. Single molecules are made of cocoa-butter - a vegetable fat easy to cast and suitable for the project because many molecules are fat soluble.

By making these man-made aromas more understandable and suitable for kitchen use it is possible to work with a more viable approach to the use of limited resources. It supports either the acceptance of new culinary patterns and prepares the consumers for future scenarios.

Why is it cool?

“There’s nothing more essential than a molecule.” Every flavour (or thing) is a composition of molecules, from fruits to vegetables or even meat and fish. Turning these molecules into a consumer-friendly product will help with the understanding towards so-called ‘artificial’ flavouring. The molecule shaped spices look really cool and you can easily add it to any dish by rasping it as we do with nutmeg.

ATOMA comes in organically shaped white boxes, all components separated. Each molecule/component has its own unique flavour but combining all these flavours together will produce - in case of the very first version of ATOMA - a strawberry flavour. It’s just like nature does. Alexandra is capable of turning familiar flavouring into multiple new and unknown flavours to be experienced. It’s a way to get 24 times more possibilities out of one single strawberry flavour.

Does it have future growth potential?

Generally speaking, the consumer consensus is that everything artificial is automatically unsustainable or unhealthy. In this way, consumers can embrace opportunities that science offers. Alexandra hopes now people are becoming more and more open to other cultures, people also start opening up to changes in food. Shifting the overall perspective on food additives will help brands to produce more sustainably without compromising on taste and quality. Not only food producers can make use of these spices but also the hospitality and restaurant branches could integrate it in their kitchens. Each flavour can be concocted everywhere, in any season or climate without the need to transport expensive and unsustainable ingredients and products from all over the world.

Find out more about Alexandra Genis and her critical food design via this link. Or watch this cool video about the concept ATOMA.

Thanks for reading!