University sees a bright future in sensory testing

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Sheffield Hallam University has invested £200,000 in its sensory testing facility.The move signalled the University's conviction that sensory...

Sheffield Hallam University has invested £200,000 in its sensory testing facility.

The move signalled the University's conviction that sensory science was an "up and coming" area in the UK, said Dr Kritika Mahadevan, senior lecturer in Sheffield Hallam's food and nutrition department. She said the university now had contracts with two major UK retailers, with the new unit having led to one of those.

The significantly enhanced facility includes controlled lighting, airflow and air pressure, so it is unaffected by the external environment. There are 17 testing booths, a discussion area, food preparation and storage areas and computer systems with specialist sensory software for data analysis. There is also laboratory testing kit for textural analysis. "Panelists would test material using a scale how chewy, rubbery or juicy it is we can then put it through a textural analyser and correlate it with the sensory data," said Mahadevan.

The facility has access to 50 specialist sensory panelists capable of shelf-life and quality testing and 140 untrained panelists for consumer testing. The technical team manages these panellists and prepares and stores samples. Mahadevan said the facility would also be used to train sensory personnel.