Why Are Plane Passengers So Into Tomato Juice?

The taste is different in a low-pressure environment
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2014 5:20 PM CDT

(Newser) – Tomato juice: It's not something many people crave on land, but in the sky, it's hugely popular. Germany's Lufthansa airline, for instance, has said it serves some 53,000 gallons of tomato juice per year—not so far off from its 59,000 gallons of beer in a beer-drinking country. So what makes the drink more appealing up high? Well, there are a couple of factors, NewsWorks reports. First, the history: When commercial flights began, free alcohol was a big feature, but eventually, it got too expensive for airlines to offer consistently. The mixers, however, stuck around.

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And in fact, tomato juice, like most foods, actually tastes different high in the air. Low cabin pressure means less oxygen in our blood, and low humidity dries out our mouths and noses. This means we don't taste or smell things as strongly as we do normally. Loud background noise can also distract us from a taste experience, an expert told the Kitchn this summer. In tests using a flight simulator, subjects said tomato juice tasted better in flight than on the ground. Down low, "it tastes earthy, it tastes not overly fresh," says a Lufthansa catering boss. "However, as soon as you have it at 30,000 feet, tomato juice shows … its better side. It shows more acidity, it has some mineralic taste with it, and it's very refreshing." (Read more airplane stories.)

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