UK. London Stansted Airport has teamed up with a luxury food outlet to unveil a sandwich using flavours that the makers claim are enhanced at altitude.

The sandwich has been produced in partnership with airport café Not Always Caviar and food expert Professor Barry C. Smith, Director of the Centre of the Study of the Senses at the University of London.

The Signature Seafood Club sandwich includes Scottish smoked salmon, salmon tartare, shrimp and guacamole-style avocado with lemon and chilli flakes. Finally, beef tomato and spinach leaves are added and the sandwich is served on granary bread (with optional caviar sauce).

The Sky High Sandwich has been created based on scientific food research into the body’s reduced ability to perceive flavours when flying and uses umami-rich ingredients.

Umami, the fifth taste after sweet, sour, salty and bitter – is at the core of the sandwich’s creation, also featuring as a special blended umami seasoning, which Stansted said will provide passengers with a “premium inflight taste experience”.

Professor Barry C. Smith, Director of the Centre of the Study of the Senses at the University of London explains the science behind the new sandwiches.

The airport said that the sandwich has been created in response to the many airlines which have withdrawn complimentary meals on flights. It believes passengers are looking for new taste experiences to purchase on the ground to take onboard.

The Sky High Sandwich, the airport added, gives passengers access to the same food science that has been employed by some of the world’s premium airlines for the benefit of their business class passengers.

The sandwiches will be sold exclusively at the Not Always Caviar café in London Stansted Airport. It is available as a Signature Seafood Club sandwich (with optional caviar sauce) or a Salt Beef Deli sandwich.

Both sandwiches will include a special umami blend spice ingredient. They are priced at £9.95/US$13.14 (or £11.95/US$15.78 with optional caviar sauce) and £8.50/US$11.23 respectively.

The Salt Beef Deli sandwich contains salt beef finely chopped and mixed in with mayonnaise and mustard, cheddar cheese, sliced cornichons/gherkins and spinach leaves, served in a diamond roll.

Professor Smith said: “Science shows that the combination of dry air and low-pressure during flights reduces our sensitivity to food aromas.

“Additionally, the sound of white noise at 80 decibels or above has an impact on the brain’s ability to perceive sweet, salt and sour from the tongue – reducing its intensity by about 10-15%. In an aircraft cabin you are subjected to white noise of around 89 decibels. This will greatly reduce the flavours we can taste whilst flying.

“Foods rich in umami provide depth of flavour and boost other basic tastes like salt, sweet and sour. Umami is also immune to the effects of white noise on our perception of taste. Another way of boosting flavour mid-flight – where the altitude and white noise levels are high – is to combine different types of umami rich foods, creating synergistic umami.

Both sandwiches include a special umami blend spice, which is added as a powder.

“This occurs when foods with naturally occurring glutamates are combined with others that contain nucleotides. Foods that combine these ingredients will produce a product that’s packed with flavour – even at 35,000 feet.”

London Stansted Airport Chief Commercial Officer Aboudy Nasser said: “As one of the UK’s leading airports, we want to ensure passengers continue to enjoy our great food and beverage offering whilst on board.

“The Sky High Sandwich is part of our mission to innovate, by harnessing science to create something unique for our guests that tastes great on the ground and even better up in the air.”

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The company also organises the annual Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference & Awards. Last year’s FAB took place on 20-21 June in Helsinki. FAB 2019 will be held at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on 26-27 June.