THE SENSES: SENSORY TESTING OF FOOD PRODUCTS

The sensory analysis or sensory testing of food has the mission of evaluating the different characteristics of a product using the five senses: sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing. In this way, a series of defined tests are carried out using very rigorous procedures.

According to this definition, sensory analysis is not the same as a “food tasting”. The main difference lies in the series of defined tests that are carried out in sensory analysis and which involve the 5 senses.

In this article we will learn how a food sensory panel can be carried out to develop improvements in the organoleptic of food thanks to sensory analysis.

What are the applications of sensory analysis?

The applications of food sensory analysis are numerous and are used for different purposes: process control, food quality control, acceptability studies or as a tool for making decisions regarding new ingredients or production processes.

Although sensory analysis is traditionally used in the wine and olive oil industry, it is currently used in all types of food. The sensory properties of a food are essential for the product to be accepted by consumers. This is why sensory analysis is so important in the development of new products, as it helps to study whether the organoleptic characteristics of the food will be well accepted by the end consumer and whether it will meet their needs.

What is sensory analysis in the food tasting process?

Sensory analysis in the food tasting process consists of the study of the sensory attributes of food through our senses. This process is carried out through procedures that are governed by a series of rules so that the final results are clear and reproducible. This is what is known as a food sensory panel.

In the following, we will study each sense and the role it plays in the perception of a food’s organoleptic properties:

Sight

The sense of sight will be the first “filter” for the consumer’s acceptance of a food.  Sight can distinguish whether the appearance of the food is normal or abnormal based on the following properties: Colour, Shape, Size and Roughness.

For the sensory analysis of colour, colour scales will be used to study: hue, intensity and brightness. Nowadays, there are very sophisticated devices that allow detecting these variations in the colour of the food in a very precise way, such as the chroma meter.

Smell

Smell is the second “filter” in the acceptance of a food and is based on the stimulation by chemicals in the food that receptors in our nose receive.  Food odour is measured in sensory analysis on the basis of three characteristics: Intensity, Persistence and Saturation Capacity.

Taste

Once we have passed the first two “filters” that can give us an idea of the organoleptic quality of the food, we come to the taste test. The taste or “basic flavour” can detect four types of taste: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Recently, a fifth taste has also been recognised: the umami taste.

It should be noted that both smell and taste are chemical senses that are closely related to each other, increasing the perception of flavour.

Touch

The sense of touch is closely related to the texture of the food. This sensory property is also composed of what is identified by sight and hearing and detects any deformation of the food.

Food texture can be studied according to the following parameters: Hardness, Cohesiveness, Viscosity, Elasticity, Adhesiveness and Chewiness.

Hearing

The sense of hearing is used to complement the analysis of the texture of the food by means of the sounds detected when the food is evaluated in the mouth.

What are the types of sensory tests?

The types of sensory tests for food analysis are classified into affective tests, discriminatory tests and descriptive tests.

Affective tests

Affective tests are subjective tests. In these tests, the judges state in general terms what they thought of the food: whether they liked it or not, whether they disliked it, whether they preferred one product or another, etc.

These tests are further divided into:

  • Preference tests. Comparative tests between different samples that are analysed by means of a questionnaire and significance tables.
  • Satisfaction tests. A numerical analysis is carried out by means of an analysis panel of the sensation produced by the different samples.
  • Acceptance tests. An attempt is made to measure a person’s desire to purchase a product. It is carried out through complex questionnaires in order to determine the ideal public (target).

Discriminatory tests

Discriminatory testing is used to study the differences between different food samples. It is mainly used in the change of formulation or processing of a food.

Examples of discriminatory tests are: Simple paired comparison test, triangular test, paired comparisons test, multiple comparisons test.

Descriptive tests

Descriptive tests use quantitative methods with the aim of objectively defining the properties of a food. These tests are classified into:

  • Unstructured scale rating. Measures the intensity of an attribute.
  • Ranking tests: Ranking according to the intensity of a sensory attribute.
  • Rating by interval scales. Identifies various characteristics of each sample: level of spiciness, bitterness, sweetness, etc. 
  • Rating by standard scales. These scales are similar to the previous ones, but reference foods are used.
  • Proportional rating or magnitude estimation. To jointly evaluate complex attributes of a food, such as taste, aroma and texture.

What are the optimal conditions for a good sensory analysis?

There are a series of optimal conditions that a room should have in order to carry out a good sensory analysis:

  • Temperature and humidity conditions should be comfortable unless the product requires special conditions.
  • The colour of the room walls and furniture should be neutral to not influence the colour of the samples.
  • The analysis room should be kept odour-free by an extraction system if necessary.
  • Ambient noise should be reduced to avoid distractions. It is best to soundproof the sensory panel area.

It should be taken in mind that a sensory analysis is not a mere tasting, but often involves an exhaustive analysis of the characteristics of a foodstuff and it is therefore necessary to take care of all these details.

How to improve the organoleptic characteristics of food by using natural ingredients?

As we have seen, the sensory analysis of food is often a fundamental requirement to evaluate the organoleptic properties of a product before launching it to the market or modifying its processing or formulation. At Amerex, we are always committed to natural ingredients, such as the preservative solutions in the Biamex or Safemix range, which help to improve the shelf life of foods and maintain or improve their organoleptic properties.

We have a wide range of starters (Fermitrat range) that through the enzymatic activities of the microorganism are able to generate a good colour, flavour and aroma in the sausage.

Write to us if good organoleptic properties are also essential for you and get to know our products for all types of food: meat or vegan, dairy, fish, ready meals, beverages and sauces or bakery. We are available for you!

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