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There is this observation/theory that during flights, people really like to drink much more tomato juice than while on the ground.

"A small study" (as Wikipedia calls it) from 2015 tries to analyse this alleged phenomenon:

This result was, however, more attributed to pressure change than to sound condition. More recently Spence, Michel, and Smith (2014) suggested that perhaps it may be the interaction of cabin noise and umami taste transduction that is responsible for the demand for umami-rich tomato juice in airline cabins.

— Kimberly S. Yan and Robin Dando: "A Crossmodal Role for Audition in Taste Perception", Observation of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 2015, Vol. 41. No. 3, 590-596. (link)

But when was this alleged phenomenon was first noticed?

It was noticed many times before that referenced analysis started, and analysed multiple times previously. This went back about 40 years in my research.

This "small study", however, references a much earlier study, trying to explain the 'thing':

— Pettit, L. A. (1958). The influence of test location and accompanying sound in flavor preference testing of tomato juice. Food Technology, 12, 55-57.

Limiting subsequent search results to 'before that' produced no meaningful results.

Disregarding any effect, real or not, about tomato juice taste or preference effects while in-flight:

When was it first noticed/claimed that inflight tomato-juice consumption was significantly higher than otherwise?

While it will be most interesting to know the first mention of real-world statistics, acknowledging an increased consumption across the board. It would be even more interesting to correlate that with early testimonials from passengers reporting this alleged effect.

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  • 1
    I flew regularly in 70's, 80's and 90's , and don't remember being offered tomato juice or seeing another passenger drinking it. – blacksmith37 Dec 8 '20 at 21:16
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    Here's a very old testimonial: earchives.lib.purdue.edu/digital/collection/epurdue/id/491 Amelia Earhart drank tomato juice! – Juhasz Dec 8 '20 at 22:33
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    Counterquestion. Where, outside an airplane, is "tomato juice" offered with any prominence? This might be supply triggering demand, curiosity etc... – DevSolar Dec 9 '20 at 15:30
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    @DevSolar Tomato juice was offered at all kinds of banquets when I was a kid (1960s, 1970s); I remember toasting at weddings with it before I was able to toast with alcohol. – bgwiehle Dec 10 '20 at 12:11
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    @SamuelRussell That's certainly an option. From 1917 to 1930s a growing popularity in temperate & 'healthy' circles, then first canned products (& again 'Bloddy Mary'). But it's certainly no longer confined to US culture now. One of the more popular results in searching this is that German Lufthansa a few years ago wondered why they stock almost as much juice as beer?! ;) – LаngLаngС Dec 10 '20 at 18:08

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