ISD Team

Food is less tasty on airplane than ground. Together with China’s MasterChef Steven Liu and molecular gastronomy professor Anu Hopia, we created soundscapes improving the taste of food on Finnair flights. We also built an app using advanced image recognition to analyse your food, offering soundscapes to enhance flavours of any recognizable food.


Finnair wants to serve the best meals in the aviation world and tasked China’s MasterChef Steven Liu to create a signature menu for Finnair’s Asian flights. That was not enough. Finnair was looking for something even more special to take dining to the next level. Research indicates that the Chinese customers are interested in the possibilities of technology and that they place high value on Nordic nature. We wanted to help Finnair utilize all senses to create an in-flight experience based on those insights.

We knew that sound can affect the way we taste things, and in the airplane the effect is strong. That’s how project Hear the Taste was born. Our goal was to craft unique, custom soundscapes for each individual Steven Liu dish served on-board Finnair, combining technology and unique Nordic elements with Steven Liu’s culinary masterpieces, to improve the taste of the food.

To craft our soundscapes, we recorded sounds from nature in Lapland and used knowledge of cross-modal correspondences between sound and taste guided by Anu Hopia, a professor of molecular biology and leading researcher on molecular gastronomy. She provided scientific guidance to ensure the rigor of the design and MasterChef Steven Liu made sure the right tastes and textures were affected the right way for his dishes.

In addition to the in-flight experience, we wanted to use technology to take the experience even further. So, we also created a WeChat miniprogram for our Chinese audience. You can take a picture of any kind of food, and the AI-powered advanced image recognition software interprets the picture and offers you a customized soundtrack. The program can make very detailed analysis of the food picture, recognizing the main ingredients. A complex algorithm then assigns the correct soundtrack. We created multiple soundscapes and additional sounds to create a plethora of variations for the AI to match with different taste combinations.

Although airlines have experimented with playlists, according to our research this is the first time custom-made soundscapes were created for specific in-flight dishes to improve their taste. Paired with the unique WeChat program, we provided the Chinese customers a chance to experience Finnair’s unique Nordic flavour through sound, even on the ground. The recent entry to the Chinese market has resulted in 51% brand awareness and the improving in-flight consumer experience supports the target of increased brand preference.

Hear the Taste concept also helps to position Finnair as a very innovative airline. It is estimated that over 250,000 Finnair passengers will be able to enjoy Hear the Taste in-flight soundscapes during 2018. Steven Liu’s dishes were designed for China in mind, but signature chef menus and soundscapes can be created for every Finnair market. For example we are currently creating a Hear the Taste variation for Sweden with a Swedish celebrity Chef, and other markets will follow.

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