This year, the Netherlands had the privilege to organize the 5th E3S Symposium entitled ‘Thinking out of the box: Sensory Present & Future’.
For those of you that are not familiar with E3S, this is the European Sensory Science Society (E3S). This is a nonprofit organization devoted to promote cooperation, shared goals, integration of activities, knowledge and information exchange among national sensory science organisations across Europe. The national sensory societies from Austria, Denmark, Italy, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and United Kingdom are affiliated to the E3S.
Participants from all over Europe came to Vlaardingen on the 10th of May. The symposium was held at Unilever R&D in Vlaardingen.
The program consisted of a variety of speakers with a diversity of subjects.
The day started with a talk from Rick Schifferstein from the Delft University of Technology. He talked about the role of sensory research in designing new food experiences. While years ago the liking of a product was seen as being the most important aspect, the overall product experiences are becoming more and more important. The lecture addressed the framework of product experience. This framework includes emotional experience, aesthetic experience and the experience of meaning.
All these sensory messages should fit together. For example, research is done for color profiling for fragrances: to define what color fits the fragrance best and use this color in the package. However, small deviations from what is expected may also be pleasant and makes the product interesting. A product should stimulate all senses: the visual, tactual, auditory and olfactory senses.
Julien Delarue from AgroParisTech continued and talked about the importance of going beyond sensory. We should fill the gap between pure sensory descriptions and hedonic ratings as conceptual and emotional profiles should be measured.
The way we feel about a product or what a product means to us is largely determined by the conceptual profile. Not to deviate from our color-themed example, the color yellow for example is often associated with energy, fun and happiness. While purple is often associated with classy, sophisticated and modern. The use of a specific color can evoke specific emotions. However, this concept can largely differ between cultures or individuals. Methods to determine these profiles include emotional profile questionnaires, projective flash profiling and word association and sentence completion methods.
There were many more interesting speeches, such as the one by Danielle van Hout from Unilever R&D, who talked about CATA and RATA questiontypes. They are currently developing a new questiontype, the ‘double faced applicable test’ which sounds very interesting and will be published soon.
Many consumer decisions are done unconscious and happen rather unplanned, while most consumer tests are not well suited to assess this unconscious decision making. Consumers often give a well thought answer. Implicit measures such as facial expressions or ANS (heart rate and skin conductance) can reveal unconscious experiences as told by Stefanie Kremer from Food & Biobased Research.
At the Instute Paul Bocose in France, scientists are developing an intelligent cooking machine. This is a tool that predicts the main sensory characteristics of a given recipe. Agnès Giboreau spoke about a project aimed to give consumers more insight in what they choose to help them in making a choice. QR codes on products can be scanned by mobile phones which will show them all sorts of information about the product. What consumers find important can largely differ between countries (e.g. value for money, nutrition information or naturalness).
Furthermore, at the institute studies regarding the impact of lights on consumer expectations and preferences are currently underway.
Jettie Hoonhout from Philips Research continued the symposium, talking about the influence of lighting, stating that lightning can positively affect the environmental evaluation and increase affective appearance and attractiveness of a product.
The day ended with the presentation of some new technologies. Tjeerd van der Laan from Purple Bee Hive presented their vegetable burgers and Maarten Schutyser from the Wageningen University introduced a 3D printing technology for high protein foods. The symposium concluded with a talk by Kees de Graaf about the achievements and challenges ahead for his Sensory Science group at the Wageningen University.
The next E3S general assembly and symposium will be held next year in Paris at 9-10 May 2017.