Aeroplane food has a reputation for leaving passengers feeling bloated and groggy, but all that could be set to change.
Leading food psychologist Professor Charles Spence has teamed up with the airline Monarch to create a food menu designed to settle the stomachs of flyers.
The Oxford professor, who’s worked with Heston Blumenthal and his team at The Fat Duck Research Kitchen, also claims his unique menu has mood-enhancing properties that will help to relax travellers.
The experimental ‘Monarch Mood Food’ box includes dishes such as black echinacea and liquorice ice cream followed by green tea and lavender mochi rice cakes.
The dishes themselves were developed by top chef Jozef Youssef and his team at Kitchen Theory, based on the research conducted by Professor Spence.
The menu features ingredients specially selected to get travellers in the holiday mood, enhance happiness, relaxation and wellbeing, the airline claims.
It follows new research which reveals over a third of Brits (33%) don’t relax until at least day three of their holiday and 72% find travelling to their holiday destination stressful.
The survey of 2,000 British holiday makers, commissioned as part of Monarch’s Year of Nice campaign, also found over a third (39%) of Brits cite the stresses of travelling as their biggest holiday mood killer, second only to bad weather (43%).
The Mood Food Box aims to make the experience of travelling nicer from the moment customers get to the airport gate, as over half of Brits (52%) find the airport to be the most stressful part of their holiday, while good food (60%) is most likely to lift spirits when on annual leave.
Prior to take off, passengers will receive “immunity boosting” echinacea and liquorice ice cream, designed to reduce the symptoms of coughs and colds, after 39% of Brits said they get ill when travelling or going on holiday.
According to the researchers, active ingredients in liquorice have well-established anit-inflammatory and cell protective abilities and as such, offer many therapeutic, immunity boosting benefits.
Ice cream was also voted the top holiday treat by 40% of Brits, with the vivid black liquorice colour surprising and delighting passengers.
Prof. Spence said: “The black colour is certainly counter-intuitive – most passengers think of white or pale colours with the ice cream. This may also help to distract passengers from their chaotic journey whilst also surprising them and playing into childlike nostalgia.”
The passengers will then receive soothing and relaxing green tea and lavender mochi rice cakes, designed to relax travellers at take-off. Lavender has been proven to enhance relaxation and sleep quality in all ages and the high polyphenol content of green tea means it’s packed with antioxidants, adding a second boost of immunity to travellers.
Prof. Spence added: “Whilst flavour and ingredients are key, texture also plays a part in modifying mood states. The soft, chewy texture of the rice encourages mastication which has proven anti-stress properties, reducing tension much like chewing gum. The chewy rice snack has therefore been designed to help reduce passenger stress on aeroplanes.”
Approximately 30 minutes into the flight, travellers will receive a specially created blend of herbal tea containing chamomile, fennel seed and kelp, proven to combat bloating and aid digestion, which affects 18% of travellers. The addition of lemon balm provides aromatic properties that may help passengers to unwind further.
The tea will be accompanied by a crunchy, seaweed biscuit, delivering sweet yet salty umami tastes.
Prof. Spence explained: “Reduced air pressure, dry cabin air, and engine noise all inhibit taste perception, but umami is the only one of the basic tastes that manages to cut through these barriers, which is why so many passengers order a tomato juice or Bloody Mary on board. Using umami tastes alongside our other flavour combinations will be comforting and satisfying for passengers.”
Finally, travellers will indulge in a sweet caramelised nut bar coated in umami rich mushroom and tomato powder to re-energise and awaken the senses as they arrive at their destination.
“Travelling is a time when we’re under pressure and rushed, so eating well is often an afterthought,” Prof. Spence said.
“I’ve loved working with Monarch to use food – which can be a powerful psychological and physiological tool – to create the first ever real ‘happy’ meal to get travellers in the holiday mood as quickly as possible.”