Top Sensory Takeaways from IFT 2022Blog
By Gillian Dagan, Ph.D., MBA, CFS
Each year the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting gives us the chance to see what is new in the food industry. New ingredients are showcased, new processing techniques are tested, and new methods in how we research foods and develop award-winning formulations are shared. This year I was interested to see what updates were reported in the world of sensory and consumer insights. Here are my top takeaways from IFT 2022:
We are still trying to get people to
eat enjoy more veggies.
No surprise here, but the way we are testing varietals and vegetable-based processed foods could use an update. Research was focused on the acceptability of phytochemical-rich foods and how the liking scores of the foods can be affected by genetic markers, socioeconomic status, race, and gender. No one answer serves as a panacea for getting people to eat more vegetables, but the results suggested that we as sensory scientists need to take a closer look at the demographics of respondents and the perceptions and personality traits of our target audience to build audiences that will give more robust results to product development teams.
Who values sensory and consumer insights work? The stakeholders are here and growing.
Although we have gathered consumer opinions for decades, the value of sensory and consumer insights work has grown over the years. Work done by sensory and consumer insights groups is now used by product developers, marketers, and culinary groups to develop new food products. It is also used by start-ups to illustrate the predicted success of their product and long-time CPG companies to make comparative or superlative advertising claims about their products. On the flip side, consumers also expect their opinions to be valued and acted upon. The amount of data exchanged between companies and consumers continues to grow and sensory professionals will be there to extract insights.
As sensory roles expand in the food industry, the skills needed to succeed as a sensory professional also grow—namely soft skills.
Nowadays it is quite common for sensory professionals to interface with multiple stakeholders from R & D, to quality assurance, to legal, to marketing. There is still an obvious need to have a strong foundation in sensory sciences and statistics, but the additional stakeholders call for additional soft skills like story-telling, influencing, and business acumen. Sensory professionals must be able to do more than interpret data—they must be able to put insights into context for varied vantage points, discuss risk and reward, and argue for incentive and field work budgets.
Covid isn’t over. Its effects on smell and taste will be something sensory professionals will wrestle with for years to come.
Research has seen large variation in individuals’ ability to recover from taste or smell loss after covid-19. Smell, and interestingly chemesthesis (ability to experience spiciness), are both affected. Not only are sensory receptors disrupted by the virus, but they are affected on a molecular level. Their DNA was disrupted by the virus and was unable to be used by the cell to synthesize proteins used in the communication of sensory responses. It is expected that about 5 million Americans will experience long-term smell loss due to Covid and this presents an interesting challenge for sensory professionals and their colleagues in product development. For affected individuals, we see that their diet is adversely affected. The new challenge is to create products that resonate with populations that don’t respond in traditional ways to salt, sugar, and fat.
How can Mérieux NutriSciences help?
Mérieux NutriSciences provides R&D staffs, product developers, marketers, and sales professionals
with insight on how their products will perform in the marketplace through our nationwide sensory
evaluation network. Committed to delivering innovation and expertise in every project, our sensory
evaluation network enables food professionals to:
- Evaluate the quality of your products
- Discover consumer attitudes
- Compare products against competitors
- Identify market gaps and generate new product ideas