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Tomato juice seems to be a favorite drink for many travelers to have on board an airplane. I've seen this on almost every flight I've been on, but I have never noticed this same trend at ground-level.

What are the reasons for that? Is there an origin of this trend?

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He didn't ask for opinion.. he is asking why do travelers drink tomato juice and he never saw people other than travelers do, so he is wondering if tomato juice and travelling are connected somehow.. no opinions involved here.. maybe tomato juice helps in jetlag or so... got me? –  MeNoTalk Aug 18 '13 at 16:51
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Awesome question because it is about me:) I drink no tomato juice at home, but actually no juices at all. Me during my last 11hrs flight: alcohol? not advisable. Fizzy drinks? Yuck. Water? boring. Orange/apple juice? too sugary/sweet and from concentrate. Tomato? hmm less sugar. With salt and pepper? yes please! little adventure, keeps me busy for 30 seconds, hooray! –  Rabbit Aug 18 '13 at 23:44
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@Flimzy: I still don't agree that the health part is off-topic. There are 132 questions tagged with travel-related health on this site. –  graup Aug 20 '13 at 3:36
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@graup: "Is tomato juice healthier than orange juice" is not travel-related health. "Does tomato juice reduce jet lag/motion sickness/etc" would be... but that wasn't the question. –  Flimzy Aug 20 '13 at 5:57
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Because everything else about flying is so unhealthy you feel like some nutrients. –  TheMathemagician Sep 18 '13 at 13:15

7 Answers 7

According to some studies, tomato juice, and many other foods, actually taste different (better in the case of tomato juice) under the low pressure conditions in an airplane than they do at home.

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This answer makes the question on-topic! –  hippietrail Aug 19 '13 at 3:43
    
Even though I hate tomato juice even under low pressure... –  Karlson Mar 11 at 14:35
    
= serious observation/confirmation bias? –  Simon Kuang yesterday

I used to drink tomato juice religiously on airplanes and never at home. As I started to fly more, I stopped ordering it but I still do occasionally for nostalgia. The reasons are:

  • it is more filling and closer to food than other juices, especially with a little salt and pepper
  • it's more expensive than pop or other drinks, which both makes you feel like you're getting more value on the plane, and explains why many people don't drink it at home
  • a little goes a long way, which is another reason not to buy a large can at home - I would be unlikely to drink it all before it spoiled.
  • at some point the whole thing becomes a self fulfilling prophecy "oooh, I'm on a plane, I should have tomato juice, that's what people do on planes" and somebody watching you learns that tomato juice is simply de rigeur on the plane

I should point out that grocery stores do sell both large and small cans of tomato juice, and they get plenty of shelf space, so clearly some people are drinking it at home.

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I've never seen tomato juice in a can, only in bottles and cartons. –  hippietrail Aug 19 '13 at 3:44
    
might be a Canadian thing heinzitup.com/OurProducts –  Kate Gregory Aug 19 '13 at 12:16
    
@KateGregory: Canned tomato juice is sold in the U.S. as well. –  Flimzy Aug 19 '13 at 16:37
    
Yeah, if you look in the obscure juice section (at least around the gmt-7 area of the US), you'll see these tiny cans, 8-oz I think, in a six-pack. You got your tomato juice, your prune juice, your white grapefruit juice, orange juice, etc., all stored at room temperature. –  MrBoJangles May 20 at 20:24

When I worked as flight attendant, people who order tomato juice sometimes order it warm and they ask for salt and pepper, I guess it is the closest thing to tomato soup. I think it is a rich juice which will help them if they are hungry, it is heavy and it will make them feel full.

I've also seen fellow flight attendants in their rest time on long flights heat it in the oven or microwave and put some lemon, salt, pepper and croutons and voila! Tomato soup is ready.

For me, I hate the smell of it, and if it's spilled on the uniform, you can't just wipe it off and continue, you have to change it or it will smell awful in no time.

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I'm astonished to see that nobody has posted the reason I drink tomato juice on planes -- they're an essential ingredient for a Bloody Mary!

enter image description here (courtesy William Clifford, Wikimedia Commons)

Although I do usually reserve this indulgence for ass-crack-of-dawn flights on Monday mornings and/or last flights out on Fridays, and naturally this requires an airline that doesn't charge you up the wazoo for a minibottle of vodka.

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That looks wonderful. It just lacks something. Maybe a little clam juice? –  Yakk May 20 at 15:09

A further reason to those mentioned previously is that several sources have claimed tomato juice can prevent you from getting DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

According to, for example, the Daily Mail:

Eating tomatoes can help prevent airline passengers developing deep vein thrombosis, British scientists have proved.

The research has shown, however, that tomatoes contain a unique chemical which similarly thins blood[...]

So it's likely that it may not just be the taste, but people doing it for a safety reason.

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Campbell's V8 drink is very popular and available throughout (convenience stores and such), while being basically a glorified tomato juice. And people do drink it at home. :)

One may also consider, that a typical long-haul flight carries people from very diverse cultural backgrounds. For example, tomato juice was a very popular beverage in former USSR, with vendors selling it by glass over the counter at every juice stand.

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V8 is also a highly effective sodium delivery platform, as are most Campbell's products. –  MrBoJangles May 20 at 20:26

Another hypothesis can be found in a Guardian article on how sound affects taste. The hypothesis is based on a previous study where it is found that a loud background noise suppresses the perception of sweetness and saltiness.

However, one researcher thinks that tomato juice has an umami taste, which might not be surpressed by the loud environment:

... Spence points out: "Have you ever noticed how many people ask for a bloody mary or tomato juice from the drinks trolley on aeroplanes? The air stewards have, and when you ask the people who order, they tell you that they rarely order such a drink at any other time." Spence reckons this is because umami may be immune to noise suppression.

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protected by mindcorrosive Sep 18 '13 at 8:31

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