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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 8 July 2009

People involved in consumer testing of foods need to agree on what terms to use to describe food characteristics. At Riddet Institute, researchers come up with a list of descriptors first, then the people on the tasting panel work out what terms they will use.


Amit Taneja (Riddet Institute)

Some flavours or some sort of characteristics of certain compounds in a food do not come out immediately, but they are there. Some people can pick it, but obviously not all pick it in the first instance. They can, but they are not aware of that. So we make a list of descriptors – or in other words, just terms – which relate to that product. So, say if I was tasting ice cream, I would say “It’s creamy”, and somebody would say “It’s a bit sandy”, which really means that there are tiny particles which I can feel on my tongue, and it feels sort of powdery. So we have to agree on these terms in a group situation. So everybody is sitting in a round table sort of arrangement and then say we have a sample which is creamy, everybody will say “Yeah, I feel creamy”, and one will be a bit sandy, so everybody will taste that and say “Yeah, it tastes sandy”, so everybody agrees to certain descriptors of a product, and it can be any product. So it’s firstly done… a few terms are made, and then their intensity is tested in the final product.

The whole idea is that they shouldn't differ. I mean, say you have 12 people, you give them a sample of ice cream, you just ask them what terms come to your mind when you taste this ice cream. And they will say it’s creamy, it’s sandy, it’s really watery or different terms, and we just check with everybody if they feel that in the ice cream. So that’s how a list of terms are come up with, we come up with a list of terms. And then, the ones which are really important for the quality of the ice cream, we move ahead with them, and then we frequently ask them those questions that relate to those terms.

We encourage them to come up with the word so it is not taught to them, we’d rather use their own words and easy sort of consumer type terms. So we use them quite frequently in the sensory testing