Mayo on a mission: Sir Kensington’s aims to bring taste to space with its condiments (Image Credit: Space.com)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station could soon add new taste to their space food if a “certain space agency” accepts the proposal of a condiments company.
Sir Kensington’s, which produces classic and flavored mayonnaises, has begun a public campaign to “bring taste to space” with its “otherworldly” condiments. Central to its efforts is the proposal pack it is sending to the agency to sample and hopefully approve its products to be consumed on orbit.
“We’ve been in talks with the Space Food Systems Laboratory about the products that they create for astronauts and how Sir Kensington’s can be a solution,” Chris Symmes, senior marketing director for dressings and condiments at Unilever North America, said in an interview with collectSPACE.com. Unilever acquired the Sir Kensington’s brand in 2017.
To be clear, the lab Symmes is referring to is the facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston that manages all of the meals launched for the U.S. segment of the International Space Station (ISS). The “problem” that Symmes says Sir Kensington’s could solve is the tendency for foods to taste bland in space due to the fluids in astronauts’ bodies being affected by the microgravity environment.
That lack of taste, said Symmes, is also sometimes experienced when opting for healthier ingredients.
“If there’s one place on Earth, or in this case, not on Earth, where tongues are starving for more flavor and with health-conscious ingredients, it’s space,” he said.
“When we learned that it is difficult for astronauts to taste flavors while in space and oftentimes they use condiments to bring out flavors in what they’re eating, we realized that this could be a brand-new territory for us to explore and bring our proposition of mouth-watering, otherworldly flavors to all people — including the astronauts themselves,” said Symmes.
To help make its case, Sir Kensington’s is providing samples for the food lab to test and taste for themselves.
“Our proposal pack includes flavors such as our classic mayo; our chipotle mayo, which is very spicy; our avocado oil mayo; and our chili lime crema ‘Everything Sauce,’ which can go on a variety of items. So we’re pretty confident that, regardless of what items are brought into space, there is a pairing to be had with one of our condiments,” said Symmes.
Sir Kensington’s is also looking for the public’s help to convince NASA to send its products to space. Beginning today (Jan. 9), fans can add their name to a petition on the Sir Kensington’s website to #BringTasteToSpace with the goal of collecting at least 10,000 signatures.
“Every petition signature also unlocks a Sir Kensington’s coupon, so there is an added incentive to sign,” Symmes said.
If NASA says yes, Sir Kensington’s is prepared to work with the food lab to meet the needs and requirements aboard the ISS. For example, the orbiting laboratory is not equipped with a refrigerator, and, other than the fresh foods that are periodically delivered by cargo ships, most items need to have a long shelf life.
“We would need to work to understand what the capabilities are like at the station, but as you may know, before they’re opened, all of our products are shelf stable,” said Symmes.
Sir Kensington’s is not the first condiment company to aim for the space station. As far back as 2006, NASA chose Minimus.biz, a retail and wholesale supplier of individual and travel-size items, to provide single-serve packages of a variety of condiments, including Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard, Heinz Barbeque Sauce and Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce.
Since then, photos taken of the astronauts’ galley have revealed full-size, off-the-shelf bottles of Heinz ketchup and Huy Fong Sriracha, among other sauces. There has even been a reported sighting of Hellmann’s mayo, a brand also owned by Unilever.
“I’m not going to denigrate my other brand here — they are both fantastic — but I think the one thing that sets Sir Kensington’s apart with regards to bringing taste to space is the ingredients that we source from all around the world to drive that sort of flavor that we believe astronauts are looking for,” said Symmes. “So that’s why we feel Sir Kensington’s is such a great fit.”