Unilever aims to change the narrative from "picky" to "supertaster"

If you’ve ever been accused of being “picky” or “difficult” when it comes to food, you may find comfort in the latest campaign from Knorr in Sweden.

Targeting the estimated 25% of the Swedish population who carry the TAS2R38 gene, meaning they may be sensitive to bitter tastes typically found in brassica vegetables, the Unilever-owned maker of stocks and soups wants to change the narrative, calling these consumers “supertasters”.

A Knorr survey revealed that 77% of supertasters have had to deal with negative comments and reactions about their taste preferences:

- 66% said it had created conflicts with friends and family

- 81% thought  that the most common misconception was that people chose to be picky and that it was just a matter of “getting over it”.

But if you ask the scientific community, being a supertaster is not a choice and “getting over it” is not an option. In fact, a wide range of research studies support the hypothesis that the TAS2R38 gene does indeed affect sensitivity to certain flavour compounds, and especially to PROP (6-n-propylthiouracil) and PTC (phenylthiocarbamide). What this means in reality is that carriers of the gene are more likely to dislike bitter foods including kale, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, coffee and coriander.  

Aiming to raise awareness around this, Knorr is offering consumers an at-home test which will reveal if you are a supertaster. The test comprises a PROP taste strip, an established method to identify supertasters, which tests for the genetically controlled ability to taste 6-n-propylthiouracil. Placed on the tongue, the strip will taste bland, bitter or even vile depending on the sensitivity of the tastebuds.

If you decide to take a PROP test and are identified as a supertaster, fear not. Knorr says its new stock cube, named ‘Superkub’ (meaning super cube), will allow you to enjoy foods like broccoli soup or spinach stews along with friends and family. The product is said to neutralise the flavours that supertasters usually do not like. As Knorr puts it: “For those 1 in 4 consumers with particularly sensitive tastebuds – a stock cube that makes vegetables taste less bitter. You are not ‘picky’. You are a supertaster. And here is your supercube”.

The product is the first of its kind and is available in a limited edition for now, but the brand plans to make it part of its permanent offering if demand is high enough.

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