In addition to having qualitative data from sensory panels, a degree of quantitative data on the sensory performance of a product or ingredient is very important when it comes to quality control and new product development.
Speaking with FoodNavigator at the recent NutraFormulate show, Harry Schimanski of Stable Micro Systems, UK, noted that sensory perceptions are often the most important factor for consumers when selecting products to buy.
“In manufacturing, you need to be aware that different people can have different perceptions of the same foods,” he explained. “There can be a conflict there. So it can sometimes be of benefit to isolate just the mechanics of the texture, or the raw information on the release of a flavour, for example.”
Schimanski noted that whilst sensory evaluation panels can be ‘a very important step’ in new product development, “it is similarly important to have data on sensory properties from laboratory equipment.”
“Whether its flavour, smell, or texture … having that back up, having the figures to tell you what might need to be altered, and by how much – that’s very important.”
“Another thing is that perceptions can change of time. So somebody doing a sensory test on one day might not have the same evaluation in a week or a month’s, or three months’ time,” said Schimanski, adding that in such cases having quantitative data to back up and double check against is ‘vital’.
Schimanski said that having such quantitative data “can be particularly important if you are a supplier of ingredients or of foods.” He said that just as consumer perceptions alter over time, so do those of buyers, and of suppliers.
“It’s very difficult on a purely subjective sensory judgement to assess this. But if you’ve got the data too then you have a possibility to check up any issues that may arise.”
“You need to be able to pull that data up at any time, to see if there might have been a change in the products specification over time,” he explained.
“That’s why sensory and texture analysis is so important in the food industry,” he said. “If there hasn’t been, then you have the data to show it … Or if it has changed, then you can of course note where that is, and investigate it to try and resolve the issue.”