Recreating Willy Wonka flavours with food science: 'In principle, we could simulate any flavour'

Ahead of the new film premiere of Willy Wonka in December, Alan Chalmers, study researcher and Professor of Visualisation at the University of Warwick, explores the film’s popular flavour combinations.

A 2023 research paper​, which brought together scientists from the University of Warwick, University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire and Royal College of Art, looks at the concept of virtual flavour, engaging in high-fidelity simulation of real flavour experiences. “Flavour is just the sensation of the taste, aroma and mouthfeel of food or drink in your mouth,” ​Alan Chalmers, Professor of Visualisation at the University of Warwick, told FoodNavigator.

Professor Chalmers has developed a new flavour experience set in a virtual environment. Using the technology enables food industry insiders to taste and identify flavours from a sample. Hailed as Warwick’s Willy Wonka, the professor’s approach takes food samples for analysis to then accurately simulate their authentic flavour by extracting its tastes, aromas and mouthfeel.

An expert in flavour simulation, Professor Chalmers hopes the flavour research opens up interest in and understanding the science of flavours. “While we may not have discovered the source of snozzberries, our research invites everyone to wonder about the extraordinary possibilities within the science of flavours,”​ said Chalmers.

Flavour choices and combinations

Researchers and manufacturers can authentically simulate food or drink with UK Food Standards Agency food-safe chemicals by analysing food or drink and extracting their components.