In sensory science, experiences are measured via sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. That a piece of food looks, tastes and smells a particular way may seem obvious, but it also provides an experience of touch and sound.
"By feeling, we mean how the food feels. If you eat it using your hands then the touch is there, otherwise it’s about how it feels in your mouth. Hearing is associated with texture – you expect that crispbread will make a sound when you eat it, and that you will hear a sausage skin pop,” says Öström. The research field links data from analytical methods with affective data, i.e.what consumers like. “When we know a product’s chemical composition and how it is perceived sensorially, we can link them together and gain valuable insights.
We can understand why flavours are perceived as they are, and then control sensory properties and their approval when developing foods.
We can understand why flavours are perceived as they are, and then control sensory properties and their approval when developing foods,” says Öström. Difference tests and descriptive tests are two methods for sensory analysis. Descriptive tests are used to evaluate foodstuffs when developing new products, or perhaps to compare certain products with other ones. “It used to be strictly the case that tasters were selected and had sensory
training. However, consumer panels have become more common, which has led to a quicker method being developed where tasters don’t need training. Product development can be geared towards the relevant target group, such as children or elderly people,” she says. Training a panel should result in them being able to discern differing flavours even at low concentrations, identifying aromas and flavours and being able to repeat an evaluation when the same sample appears again.
“Take an apple, where acidity could be a relevant sensory property that needs measuring. We then have to define the property to be able to evaluate the intensity of acidity, from low to high, on an intensity scale.” “Statistics drives the development of sensory science methodology; evaluations can generate very complex data matrices. Previously, each property was evaluated separately, but the new methods allow us to put together different datatypes and obtain a wealth of information about what different consumer groups like”, Åsa concludes.
Text: Karin Janson
Photo: Jesper Mattsson