The flavours and fragrance firm views sensory and consumer research as one of its core competencies. It now expects to take this research to new depths, thanks to a contract signed with Wageningen University in The Netherlands that gives it access to data gathered at the latter's Restaurant of the Future (RoF). Based on this, it plans to develop new ways to predict shifts in taste preferences. Symrise has said that the findings will be directly integrated into product developments. In this way, it will prove instrumental in helping its R&D team stay ahead of the game in the flavours market. By focusing in on new trends quickly, it will be in the front line when it comes offering customers new products to meet demand. The restaurant operates like any other company eatery, but with one crucial difference: it is only open to people who agree to be filed while they make their food choices and consume them. Researchers at the university and Symrise's sensory and consumer science department then look at the footage to learn about eating and drinking habits, food selection, and how choices are influenced by factors like package design, smell, colour and taste. Symrise's main interest is in criteria that affect food choices. In addition to identifying shifts in preferences, the company said it will examine the link between these preferences and the appetite. Symrise has several regional sensory and consumer research centres, in Europe, Asia and the Middle East (EAME), North America, South America, and Singapore. The Singapore facility has recently been expanded, in an effort to more tailor flavour solutions to consumers in the Asia Pacific region - a high potential market where there are numerous different cultural interactions at play. Symrise consumer research methods involve quantitative and qualitative approaches, both central-location and home-use tests, online surveys and focus groups. During the six month period ended June 30 overall sales for the company rose from €632.3 to €660.9m. The flavour and nutrition division contributed €3111.2m to this figure. Symrise said that 40 per cent of overall sales were derived from emerging markets. EBITDA for the first half of the year was €142.8m, up from €123.5m in the same period of last year. Symrise made its initial public offering on December 11 2006.