Taste sensations over time
Put a piece of ham in your mouth. Chew. Report the taste, and continue to do so. Spit the ham out after 25 seconds. Continue to report the taste until 60 seconds have elapsed. Did the taste change?
This way of working with taste is a recently developed sensory method called TDS (Temporal Dominance of Sensations). The difference between this method and descriptive analysis, which is currently the most common sensory method, is that instead of reporting the intensity of all the taste qualities of a product, the tester reports the most dominating taste in his or her mouth in the space of a few seconds.
The method may be exemplified through chewing gum, such as when examining what duration the cooling effect of menthol is perceived to have in interaction with other qualities.
What dominates cured ham?
The leader of Nofima’s sensory panel, Josefine Skaret, and research fellow Morten Thyregod Paulsen introduced this method to Nofima’s sensory panel. The panel tasted cured hams from Norway, Italy, and Spain, with panelists being asked to report the most dominating qualities in the space of 60 seconds.
“Even though this was only a test run, there were some interesting results,” Josefine Skaret explains. “When taste-testing the Spanish and Italian cured hams, the qualities of mature taste and saltiness took turns in dominating the product during the 60 seconds. In the Norwegian cured ham, saltiness dominated to a greater degree.”
Interaction in meals
“This method seems highly relevant for testing the interaction between taste components in complex meals,” says Morten Thyregod Paulsen. “We can for instance find out how much a sauce dominates in a salmon dish. Or we can gain knowledge about how drink affects the taste of food.”
The method has been developed at the INRA research institute at Dijon in France, where Morten Thyregod Paulsen participated in a course organized by Pascal Schlich, the researcher behind the method.
Though certain products may be relatively similar in the intensity of their various qualities, they may nonetheless be perceived as highly dissimilar when eaten. Morten Thyregod Paulsen cites chocolate as an example.
“In normal profiling, where you report the intensity of sensory qualities such as cocoa taste, sweet taste, caramel taste, and so forth, you might be unable to differentiate between the products,” he explains. “But through TDS you can uncover the sequence in which the various tastes dominate the product.” The method works best for describing qualities such as taste and texture, but has also been used in the automotive industry for testing sound qualities. The method also allows more products to be tested within a shorter space of time.
Unaccustomed to time pressure
For the members of the sensory panel, working with new sensory methods is exciting. It is an entirely new modus operandi for them, and they are unaccustomed to the aspect of time.
“A screen in front of the judges prompts them to continuously report the most intense taste and to spit the sample out,” Josefine Skaret explains. “The judges are unfamiliar with such a work method, and it is important to emphasize that they should relax and not be stressed by the time aspect. This method requires practice.” Skaret and Paulsen believe it could be interesting to test the method on consumers in future research projects. Perhaps one of these future participants will be none other than you?