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The 17th Nordic Workshop in Sensory Science: Making Sense

A small but enthusiastic group of industry professionals and scientists from the Nordic countries gathered in Reykjavik for the 17th Nordic Workshop in Sensory Science. As one of the main sponsors of this workshop we were present as well. The Nordic Workshop is a reoccurring event which focuses on scientific results and their practical implications in the industrial environment, their main target being the Nordic countries. It is a nice opportunity to meet colleagues from the field as well.

This year’s edition was organised by Matis, a R&D company specialised in biotechnology, product development, novel products, food processing and food safety. We had 1,5 day full of interesting presentations. The workshop started off with the keynote speaker, dr. Qian Janice Wang from the Oxford University. The subject of her presentation was centered around multisensory influences in the eating experience. 


The Oxford University has a crossmodel research laboratory where they conduct research on how the different senses (sight, hearing and touch) influence each other and food perception.

Dr. Wang explained that flavour is not just in the mouth, but that it is a multi-sensory experience. It all starts with the taste/flavour expectations. These include the orthonasal aroma, vision, touch and audition (e.g. product preparation / opening a product). While consuming the product, the taste/flavour perceptions come into place. These include the retronasal aroma, gustation, oral-somatosensation (e.g. temperature) and audition (during mastication). Some other factors influencing flavour can be mood, price, branding information and product-extrinsic sensory cues (background sound, packaging texture and packaging colour).


She showed some interesting examples of crossmodel research. For example, if German music is played in a wine store German wine sales increase. On the other hand, if French music is played the French wine sales increase. The consumer does not seem to notice that their choice is influenced by the music that is being played in the background. An example of the influence of audition in taste perception is that when people hear noise in the background, sweet taste intensity is rated lower and umami taste intensity was rated higher. This is what happens in airplanes for example.


In another study, the Oxford University showed that playing ‘sweet’ music can make food taste more sweet and that in turn playing ‘bitter’ music can make food taste more bitter. Sweet music has high-pitched notes, while bitter music has low-pitched notes. 

For future research it will be very interesting to see if we can use the different senses to make people eat more healthy and if these senses can help with sugar and salt reduction. Based on research from the Oxford University, a ‘Sonic Sweetner cup’ was developed. This cup will turn the liquid pink and will play sweet music to make the drink taste more sweet.


During the workshop we were able to experience some crossmodel experiments ourselves when we tasted chocolate that was placed on different plate colours. Cheese was placed on a smooth or a rough plate with and without music and wine was tasted in combination with ‘sweet’ or ‘sour’ music.

During the other presentations we got an insight in how, for example, Arla runs their sensory & consumers tests, how Fazer launched their Cricket Bread, the experience of coldness in supermarkets and shopping behaviour of chilled groceries by RISE and Nofima gave us advice on how to run temporal methods. These are just a few examples as there were many more presentations, each contributing to an interesting Nordic Workshop.


On Friday morning Matis showed us a novel device, the 3D food printer. Using a 3D food printer you can print food layer by layer. Currently the majority of 3D food printers are designed for confections and baked bread. Matis is working on a project with seafood byproducts that can be turned into food that people would like to eat. This would be a good solution to reduce food waste and underutilization of byproducts. The audience was fascinated when they demonstrated the printer and we are curious what the future will bring.

On Friday afternoon, the more adventurous participants went on a hike to the top of the Úlfarsfell mountain, which is 296 meters high. Because the weather was very unpredictable we were warned beforehand that we could end up in a snowstorm. Despite the warning, our group still wanted to do the hike and we did not regret it! It was a beautiful hike, sometimes through the snow, with an amazing view as the reward. It was very windy at the top, causing that some of us were almost blown away. Luckily it only started snowing when we were almost back at the cars. To warm up again we went to a pool and enjoyed the slides and the hot tubs.


Some took the opportunity to discover a bit more of the surroundings of Reykjavik by adding some extra days. We were happy to have one extra day in which we experienced the Icelandic horses and the Golden Circle with its geysers, waterfalls and were able to stand on both the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates at the same time.