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Using one’s senses – what is sensory evaluation?

Anne Camilla Bejerholm

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using ones senses

Using one’s senses – what is sensory evaluation?

Sensory evaluation is the assessment of a product performed by people using their senses. Unlike a chemical analysis of, for example, salt, a sensory analysis can integrate several sensory perceptions and can then be used to describe where the salt product is experienced and not just how much salt is in the product. These two things can differ depending on factors such as spices or the texture of the product.

 

Who can perform an evaluation?

A trained panel can be used for sensory evaluation. Individuals are tested in their ability to taste and in their ability to express their taste perceptions in words. Once the individuals have been approved as assessors, they receive basic training and are also trained in assessing specific products. They often perform repeated assessments of the products, enabling them to give a very accurate description of a product’s sensory attributes. The panel can receive general training or can be trained in assessing a specific product. The latter can be of particular relevance to companies. The panel can also be used to perform rapid assessments, where the panellists do not receive intensive training and where the assessments are not necessarily repeated.

 

Examples of methods that are suitable for a trained panel: Sensory Profile Analysis, Mapping, Turbo Profile and Difference Test.

An expert panel consists of fewer individuals, who are not trained as intensively as a trained panel but who have expert knowledge of the product. By performing an evaluation based on few simple rules, an expert panel can assess a product in terms of the quality required.

 

Examples of methods that can be applied by an expert panel: Just-About-Right and Holistic by DMRI.

If you need to know whether or not a product tastes good, you have to ask the consumers. A consumer test can be used to establish how much the participants like the product, whether they prefer one product to another and how they perceive the product. A combination of a consumer test and a descriptive test can be used to identify which product attributes the consumers like.

 

Examples of methods that can be applied in a consumer test: Liking and Preference Test, Holistic by DMRI and Check All That Apply (CATA).

 

 

The senses

When assessing products, we use our senses: taste, smell, sight, touch and hearing.

 

Taste

What we traditionally call taste actually consists of three different sensory perceptions:

The tastes sour, sweet, salt, bitter and umami. These five tastes are perceived on the tongue via well-defined receptors.

 

Retronasal smell perception concerns the transfer of volatile compounds from the oral cavity to the nose during chewing. There are millions of different volatile compounds, and some of them can be perceived by individuals even in very low concentrations. These are the volatile compounds that give food products their characteristic flavours and, for example, make chocolate taste of chocolate and meat taste of meat.

 

The trigeminal nerve, which registers pain (e.g. chilli), cold (e.g. mint) and the tingling sensation of bubbles in carbonated drinks.

 

 

Smell

The sense of smell is when we perceive the volatile compounds with the nose without having the food in the mouth. There are many volatile compounds that bind to receptor cells in the nose and send signals to the brain about what the product smells of.

 

 

Sight

Appearance is important for most products, since it gives us an idea of what kind of quality we can expect from the product. It could be the appearance of a food product but also the appearance of a ceiling tile or a piece of fabric.

 

 

Touch

The sense of touch is important when assessing both food products and non-food products. For food products, the sense of touch is used to assess the texture of the product, both with the hands (How hard is it to cut the meat?) and with the mouth (How tender is the meat? Or how crumbly is the sausage?).

 

 

Hearing

For food products, the sense of hearing is used, for example, to assess the crispiness of a biscuit or to assess how clearly the cracking sound of a sausage can be heard.

 

Participate in one of our courses and learn more about sensory evaluation:

Food assessment – one-to-one instruction

Food assessment at your company