Gousto launches smell training kits as Long COVID sufferers ‘fall out of love with food’ after losing smell and taste

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Pre-pandemic approximately 3.3m people in the UK - 5% - were affected by smell loss. Now, over one million additional people in the UK will have suffered with more persistent smell loss due to COVID. Image: Gousto.
Pre-pandemic approximately 3.3m people in the UK - 5% - were affected by smell loss. Now, over one million additional people in the UK will have suffered with more persistent smell loss due to COVID. Image: Gousto.

Related tags COVID COVID-19 Smell Taste

The recipe kit provider has introduced free limited-edition ‘Flavour Saviour’ kits in partnership with the charity AbScent to help consumers ‘retrain their senses and rediscover the joy of mealtimes’.

It comes after a Gousto study of 2,000 COVID-19 sufferers found that 71% lost their senses of smell and taste, with 57% saying this has taken the joy out of food for them.

One in five (21%) no longer eat their favourite foods, while nearly 17% were left unable to smell their cup of morning coffee or taste their favourite chocolate. For a further one in five (20%), their sense of taste is still yet to return.

Nearly a quarter (23%) were left feeling stressed at the prospect of never fully tasting their favourite meal again, with others left feeling isolated and depressed, with a number reporting that they are now eating (11%) and cooking (10%) less as a result.

Over 33% of those who had COVID said they had tried eating burnt orange, garlic cloves and gargling salt water to try and regain their sense of taste. A more practical 43% dialled up their cooking with strong flavours and extra spice - such as adding more chillies - hoping this would help them taste fully again. 

In response to the 24% with smell and taste disorders who are looking for recipe inspiration to help cook meals they can taste, Gousto has unveiled the limited edition ’Flavour Saviour’ kit, which is now available for free from its website. Formulated in partnership with smell loss experts AbScent, it includes four fragranced jars to actively sniff, alongside ingredients hand-picked to stimulate the taste buds.

Gousto said the kit has been designed to help the nation fall back in love with food by stimulating the smell receptors that can unlock flavour. With smell intrinsically linked to the way in which we enjoy food’s rich flavours, one strategy that many people (61%) admit to having overlooked is smell training (or olfactory training) which has the potential to enhance, and even recover, sense of smell and thus the experience of flavour. 

Participants will also receive recipe recommendations from Gousto that complement their journey to rediscovering flavour. Over half (53%) of Brits that had COVID in the last two years reported that they’ve been more adventurous with what they eat since their taste came back.

Anosmia, parosmia and Long COVID

According to AbScent, it is well understood that losing your sense of smell is a common symptom of COVID​, as it is of any viral infection such as cold or flu.

Many of those infected report loss of smell and taste – called anosmia – as a symptom (it is believed that 75-95% of what we taste is actually due to the smell). This can develop into parosmia: when the smell returns but is distorted. The smell and taste of certain things – or sometimes everything – is different, and usually unpleasant.

In many cases, a patient will recover their sense of smell naturally after a couple of weeks. Where the virus causes damage to olfactory neurons - around 10% of Covid-19 smell loss cases - recovery may take much longer, from a few months to a few years.

According to AbScent, if you’ve lost your sense of taste and smell for two weeks or more, smell training can help recovery​. Smell training is easy, safe, and recommended by doctors. It involves sniffing the same four scents every day, spending around 20 seconds on each scent and really concentrating on what you’re doing.

Gousto has created 350 free kits in total which will be released over the next two weeks two weeks. The kits contain four jars of fragrance, designed by the experts at AbScent to help recover a lost sense of smell when sniffed every day. The ingredients​: ground sumac, soy sauce, dried apricots, are designed to trigger the basic tastes, nigella seds and chill flakes, have been chosen to trigger the basic tastes.

Chrissi Kelly, founder of AbScent, said: “The pandemic has brought a new-found awareness and sensitivity to those suffering with smell disorders. So many people tell us they feel frightened or isolated, but they're not alone; pre-pandemic approximately 3.3m people in the UK - 5% - were affected by smell loss. Now, over one million additional people in the UK will have suffered with more persistent smell loss due to COVID.  By teaming up with Gousto, our hope is that more people will consider smell training to support their recovery, and know that there is support for those who need it."

Comedian and Gousto ambassador Katherine Ryan is putting the ‘Flavour Saviour’ kit to the test, having lost her sense of smell last year from COVID, which affected how she tasted some of her favourite foods. She said: “At first I was in denial about losing my sense of smell; it was only when my husband Bobby K was cooking at home that I realised I couldn’t smell the garlic or the onions frying. I remember feeling a bit helpless at the time… What I love about Gousto’s Flavour Saviour kits is that they are a great way for me to feel proactive in starting the journey to rediscovering the senses.”

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