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I have now numerous times heard things such as:

In the final step, the factory adds custom spices for the specific region for which this batch of hotdogs are supposed to be sold.

It is strongly implied, if not explicitly stated, that different "market regions", even within countries/states, have a "general taste".

This strikes me as very odd. Why would that be? After all, we are not talking about radically different kinds of food here, but mass-produced food with "taste customizations" to fit "the palette" of a specific area of people.

I'm not saying that I don't believe that this is done, or that it doesn't have some grounds in reality, but I don't understand it. Especially not these days when every little town needs to have every imaginable race all living there together. How can these different people with only the geographical location in common have a common "taste" in food?

"If the product is sold within these GPS boundaries, add 2.5% sugar and subtract 4.7% salt"? How can this be? How does it happen? Does it really sell more food compared to just coming up with a general "recipe" which is used for every place where the product in question is sold?

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    People grow up eating food which influences their preferences and expectations – if you grow up in the US your baseline expectation of (say) bread, mustard and sausages is dramatically different to if you grew up in the UK, Germany or France. The same is true to a more subtle extent for other food and other regions. Is it so hard to believe that a region where people eat more chilli will want spicier food to a region where people grow up on blander fare?
    – dbmag9
    Jul 23 at 6:53
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    There's a parallel, even for "foreign" food. I grew up near Bradford, in the 60s one of the few areas with a significant Asian population… so I was enjoying curries before they really 'became a thing' in the UK. 20 years later, I moved to London, where I still think 3 decades on that [many, not all of] the curries are a pale imitation of what I grew up with. This is still reinforced every time I go back up there.
    – unlisted
    Jul 23 at 7:40
  • Can you provide a source for your quote or a product example? I am aware of companies that might make, for example, a flavor of potato chip, that would sell and be enjoyed regionally.
    – moscafj
    Jul 23 at 10:16
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    In a UK office we had a tea club, and the 'secretary' would buy supplies as needed. One day he came back with a huge jar of Nescafé from a Lidl supermarket that he said was a 'bargain'. People said it tasted 'weird'. Inspection of the label showed it was a Brazilian market product. I didn't mind it, actually, but it was different from UK Nescafé. More 'burnt' tasting. Jul 25 at 19:38
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This has less to do with any existing general cultural preferences of the region, and more to do with how that particular product type was first introduced to the region and what it tasted like at the time. The flavor profile of an imported food, and even some native foods, tends to get set in the popular preference in the first few years it's eaten there.

For example, mayonnaise in Japan is both richer (more egg yolks) and sweeter than mayonnaise in the US. This is because, when Toichiro Nakashima manufactured the first mayonnaise in Japan in the 1920's, that's how he liked it. This makes it the "flavor profile" of mayonnaise in Japan, and if an American company were introducing a mayonnaise-based product there, they'd add extra sugar and saturated fats to it so that Japanese people wouldn't think it tasted "odd" or even "wrong".

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  • Have you ever had Japanese crisps [US chips] or bread? Extra tablespoon of sugar in every bite… even if the bread does make the best breadcrumbs ever [panko] ;)
    – unlisted
    Jul 24 at 8:36
  • Yeah, I was thinking about the crisps thing but I couldn't find documentation for it.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 26 at 5:34
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"How can these different people with only the geographical location in common have a common "taste" in food?"

This is not odd, it is the very definition of culture. People living in a given region always tend to have similar preferences for a number of things, including food, clothing, pronunciation, and so on. It's not odd that it happens, on the contrary, it would be odd if it did happen for anything but food.

The reasons are varied, and have little to do with cooking and everything to do with social psychology - people (like most social mammals) tend to blend in with their group and to get used to what is available around them as the "norm". This has a ton of functions in human societies, which have nothing to do with actual cooking, there is scientific and popular literature on the anthropology of food habits. The point is that geographic constraints, the establishment of random choices, and some intentional engineering of food choices by ideologies and marketers have led to taste "profiles" in different regions, which have become the preference of the people in that region, and producers are of course catering to these existing tastes.

You do have a point that nowadays, globalization is reducing regional differences in everything, but it is certainly not so far progressed as to delete them altogether.

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