On Friday I noticed that a few papers had run a story about research into “taste dialects”, the notion that different regions of the country favour particular foods. All ready I was sceptical, and then I noticed that the research had been performed on behalf of Costa Coffee. Hmm.
Well, for various reasons I didn’t get around to writing about it. I’d probably have moved on from this story this week if it weren’t for the appearance of a press release on EurekAlert from the University of Nottingham.
Normally EurekAlert serves as a pretty reliable source for scientific press releases, so I’m a bit surprised to see this kind of “research” cropping up. I’ve cracked out the scare quotes because some of the “findings” are so subjective that they can’t in any way be called science. For example:
People from the North East seek tastes that offer immediate satisfaction, borne from a history of hungry heavy industry workers demanding foods that offer immediate sustenance.
Maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe that isn’t complete bollocks, and the researchers somehow show a causal link between a history of heavy industry and a desire for instant satisfaction. I’ve got no way to tell, because the “research” wasn’t published anywhere.
That’s unsurprising, considering the people who carried it out. Whilst Professor Andy Taylor works in the University of Nottingham Flavour Research Group, food psychologist Greg Tucker works for The Marketing Clinic, which uses the scary-sounding Interrogation Research technique to come up with market research. Some choice quotes from that page:
The consumer is under strong social pressure to provide answers which are acceptable to society.
The Marketing Clinic can ascertain what is really going on and get into consumers unconscious thoughts.
I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like they scream “THERE ARE 5 COFFEES AND THEY ALL TASTE GREAT!” at people until they agree. Coffee, after all, was the reason for commissioning this survey. No surprise to find this “result” buried away at the bottom of the list then:
Coffee is the earliest recalled taste memory for under eighteens. In all regions, people noted the importance of getting a ‘good’ rather than ‘average’ cup of coffee.
And where might one get a good cup of coffee in all regions? Why, Costa Coffee of course!
I’m disappointed that EurekAlert are participating in this shameless marketing exercise. If you still need convincing to the true nature of this “research”, one need only glance at the contact details on the end of the press release. Lucy Whittle of Paratus Communications can tell you everything you need to know. The company even proudly display their ability to get corporate nonsense in to the papers, so I don’t think EurekAlert needs to give them any more help.