Consumer and sensory sciences
Innovation in food is only possible if we know what consumers want. We carry out consumer research based on the sensory perception of food, or in other words, how we experience food through our senses.
- Targeted food innovation
- Methods to generate consumer insight, and to relate sensory information to consumer acceptance data.
- Sensory analysis using Nofima’s highly trained assessors
- Tailored measurement methods and statistical models for consumer tests and sensory investigations
- PanelCheck: software to test and maintain a sensory panel
- ConsumerCheck: software to map the correlations between consumer preferences and sensory properties
- Advice and training for sensory panels, panel management and the use of the relevant software.
Several factors influence choices made by consumers. These may be associated with the product itself, the meal, the consumer, the situation or the surroundings. We emphasise making a contribution to targeted innovation by investigating how the experience of food is affected by these factors.
Food innovation through understanding mechanisms
It is not easy to launch a new meal. Consumers are often more skeptical to food innovation than to other types of product innovation. [OUE1] We have to eat to survive, but eating also gives pleasure, fullness and wellbeing. It is important to understand these mechanisms in order to be successful with food innovation. We carry out research on consumer’s food related behaviour, and we develop methods to generate new consumer-insight in an efficient and valid manner.
We are in the international front in the field of understanding consumers’ experience and sensory perceptions of food in various situations. The understanding of consumers’ behaviours and actions is particularly important to meet the increasing demand for healthier food. For example: When reducing the salt and/or fat content of food, it is necessary to analyse the sensory effects. It may be necessary to change recipes in order to compensate for changes in sensory properties. In this case, it is important to determine whether consumer preferences have changed. It will also be necessary to determine consumer attitudes to different product information, in order to discover how food producers can present healthy products more effectively.
We use a multidisciplinary approach to understand consumers. Research results and knowledge from several different scientific fields, such as food technology, statistics, nutrition, sensory perception, consumer understanding and consumer insight, are combined.
We have expertise in all of these fields. Further, we are skilled in developing and tailoring measurement methods and statistical models used not only in consumer tests, but also in sensory investigations. Our scientists have developed, among other tools, the software packages PanelCheck, which provides methods to test and maintain sensory panels, and ConsumerCheck, which makes it possible for food producers to map correlations between consumer preferences and sensory properties.
At Nofima we have a sensory panel of ten professional assessors which is internationally leading in the field. The panel is a pioneer within sensory perception, and the assessors have an average of 12 years’ experience.
Different groups of consumers represent different cultures, different opinions, and different preferences. This means that different consumer segments approach food in different ways. Thus, what is important to emphasise differs from one target group to another.
At Nofima, we place particular emphasis on the segments children, young people and the elderly when it comes to developing healthy products. This is not only because these segments have special nutritional needs but also because they are more difficult to satisfy from a sensory point of view.