Sensory Science

Contributed by Dr Paula Conroy BSc PhD RNutr, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

Sensory science is commonly referred to as ‘sensory evaluation’ and ‘sensory analysis’.

A scientific discipline used to evoke, measure, analyse, and interpret reactions to those characteristics of food and other materials as they are perceived by the senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing

Stone and Sidel, 2004

Sensory Science features obtaining people’s reactions to products in terms of how it smells, tastes, looks, feels, and sounds and then using this information to make decisions. Whenever there is a question about product differences and likes or dislikes, sensory is usually involved.

Sensory Science is a mixture of food science, psychology, statistics, and consumer insights. Combining sensory, instrumental and flavour chemistry data using advanced sensometric techniques to understand flavour and texture perception of foods, and food choice.

Applying descriptive and consumer assessment methodologies allows us to investigate how ingredients, processing and shelf-life impact the sensory quality of foods, through the biochemical processes that impact on sensory perception.

Sensory marketing deals with measuring and explaining consumer emotions to capitalize on them in new market opportunities. It also allows us to maximize the profit of products and customer loyalty so that they will repeat purchase to guarantee success for as long as possible.

For this reason, Sensory Science is vital to the food industry.

The major benefit of sensory testing is using the data gathered to help a brand understand what changes need to be made before bringing the product to market. This helps the brand ensure success before selling the new food, beverage, etc. to a larger demographic which is intrinsic for the success of new product development. Eating experience and environment have a large impact on food preference.

Researchers and those seeking to maximize food preference need to consider consumer experience. Sensory cues can be used to design products that can help make the healthy choice easier for consumers. For example, reformulating recipes to have a lower fat, sugar, and salt content without compromising on taste and texture. Sensory Science is a major feature in product optimisation and reformulation and has become very prominent in today’s world due to various taxes such as the sugar and salt tax.

Services Available at MET include:

Descriptive testing: QDA • Napping • Ranking descriptive analysis (RDA) • Polarised sensory positioning 

Discrimination testing: Triangle • ‘A’ not ‘A’ • Tetrad • Difference from control 

Quality assessment: Grading • Shelf life • Monitoring • Specification compliance 

Analytical trials: Determining sensory properties of products 

Descriptive analysis: Trained Panel Testing 

Trouble shooting: Process, taint carryover, texture enhancement etc. 

Competitor testing • Bench Marking • Consumer studies 

Reference and further information:

Stone, H. and Sidel, J.L., 2004. Introduction to sensory evaluation. Sensory Evaluation Practices (Third Edition). Academic Press, San Diego, pp.1-19.

If you are interested in finding out more about our sensory capabilities, please get in touch.

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