Christina Bava explains how the sensory team at Plant & Food Research select and train consumers for a sensory trial so they are sensitive to particular attributes of interest. The selected consumers taste apple samples in individual booths and rate each sample on specific flavour and texture attributes.
Christina Bava (Plant & Food Research)
Ultimately, a sensory trial would involve getting consumers to come in and do a tasting where we have them seated in individual booths. We'd often mask the product with red or green lighting and that just helps to make sure there is no on the consumer’s behalf in terms of looking at any differences between the products, and we’d just get them to taste a series of samples based on the statistical design that we would have produced.
When we run a sensory panel, we have a series of expert panellists who we've trained and screened for sensory acuity to a number of attributes. The process involves getting a group of about 10 to 12 panellists in, and we give them a set of reference standards, so these are attributes that we think, based on previous research, are going to be relevant to the apples that we will be using.
So they involve taste and texture. So we have things such as sweetness, acidity, firmness, fibrousness, which we train the panel to be able to perceive in an apple sample. Then when we go into the testing phase of the research, we get our panellists to go into the booths and they then have to rate each of these individual attributes in each apple sample. With apples, it’s really important to get a balance between acidity and sweetness. So it’s useful for us to know where the differences lie between different apple cultivars. Particularly with the red-fleshed apples, any red attribute in a fruit is known to be associated to a degree with some additional bitterness and astringency. So we can get a panel to look at the samples and see whether in fact the red attribute in the fruit is leading to any bitterness or astringency, which is something that a consumer may not appreciate in a new.
Additional footage from Plant & Food Research