Sensational Sustenance Sensory Science Secrets

By: Nikki Nies sensory-science

In an ever-evolving dynamic world, registered dietitians (RDs) should utilize all the tools at their disposal.  Not sure what I mean by this?  This includes understanding and incorporating sensory science and evaluation into daily practice.   By becoming proficient in sensory science it can ensure the best approach,methodology and tools are used to provide the best to consumers.

Sensory science is 

“A scientific discipline used to evoke, measure, analyze and interpret reactions to the characteristics of food/materials they are perceived by the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing” -Institute of Food Technologies 

While sensory science has been around as long as humans have consumed food, the first official method noted was during a triangle test in Scandinavia in the 1940s.  Since then, the use of sensory science has played a major role in the food industry’s ability to predict and produce adequate products that meet consumer’s wants and needs.

In 2012 alone, there were 12,614 new products on the market.  However, there was an estimated 70-80% failure rate associated with these products.  So, to provide more user friendly products that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but allow industries to better predict and provide products that fall in the “success” category, the use of sensory science has proven to play an essential role in the thorough advancement and development of products.

For RDs to best meet the diverse environments, populations and needs,  including sensory science can be multidimensional and mutually beneficial:

  1. Academia: The use of sensory science can better enhance the outcomes of clinical outreach projects. It can assure scientific basis to what methods are used, why certain products are chosen and provide a transparent overview of outcomes!
  2. Food Service:  By learning how to target consumer preferences and menu descriptions, RDs can increase sales and improve overall consumer satisfaction.  Specifically, by conducting mini focus groups, providing questionnaires and/or incentives for feedback can be a consistent way to make any future adjustments and changes.
  3. Counseling:  There is often a disconnect between what is covered in a counseling session and what’s executed. Using sensory science can be the missing link between practice and practicality.  Through the use of hedonic scales and questionnaires, RDs can have a better understanding in sensory properties, have the ability to explore the genetics of taste and learn if clients are nontasters, supertasters or tasters.  Furthermore, counseling sessions can become more individualized, as RDs will be better equipped to teach clients how to cook to their own taste buds and palate.
  4. Food Demoing: With a new perspective of using all the senses while eating, RDs can take food demoing to the next level.  This can include blind taste tests and/or teaching clients how to be more aware of reactions to different foods.
  5. Working with children:  Using sensory tests with children will help them better learn and become exposed to foods they like.  Repeated exposure to foods can help decrease pickiness and encourage more nutrient rich foods.
  6. Working with older adults: Lastly, for RDs working in long term care facilities, senior centers and/or throughout the community, they may find with age, the deterioration of taste can lead to the need of two to three times more salt than previously needed.  There has been found to be a direct relationship with aromatic perception and decline in brain function.  Furthermore, with the use of ACE inhibitors and altered taste (i.e. dysgeusia and/or ageusia), RDs will be able to accommodate the needs of taste preferences!

So regardless of your work setting, all RDs can benefit from the use of sensory science! Interested in learning more about sensory science? Learn more with the help of Annette Hottenstein’s Sensory Science Secrets!

Photo Credit: Culinary Institute of America: Department of Culinary Science


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