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Essensor and Wageningen University & Research join forces for food and consumer research

Published on
November 4, 2020

Since November 2020, Essensor and Wageningen University & Research have been conducting joint research into food taste and experience, food appreciation and consumers' food choice behavior. Thanks to this collaboration, scientific knowledge can be used more quickly to develop healthy products that are appreciated by consumers.

European food companies, whether or not in consultation with the food and health authorities, are working hard to improve the recipe and composition of food products by reducing the amount of fat, salt and sugar. In order to be able to introduce a new or renewed product, it is necessary to understand the conditions under which consumers will accept the improved product. Wageningen University & Research carries out fundamental scientific research to predict this behaviour properly. WUR wants to bring this knowledge to the market faster and has entered into a collaboration with Essensor. Essensor offers sensory facilities and standardised measurement methods for routine research for the food industry. In this way, the knowledge of WUR can be translated into healthy products that contribute to the joint efforts to make food habits more healthy.

Extensive sensory facilities of Essensor

Wim Vaessen, Research Director of Essensor: “For many innovations in food, the consumer is the key factor. That is why it is so crucial to know the customer’s experience on new products or new compositions. We can now offer a direct and faster route to healthy and sustainable products.” Essensor is European market leader in sensory research for the food industry. In Dutch cities Ede and Utrecht, the company has sensory test facilities and an related kitchen for the preparation of food products. Essensor serves a wide range of customers, from retailers and SME’s to large multinationals.

Opening up scientific knowledge and technologies

Several departments within Wageningen University & Research provide knowledge for taste and experience research: from pure fundamental research to applied research. As one of the few universities in the world, it has sensory research groups embedded in a food environment. In addition, Wageningen University & Research has built up a great deal of knowledge and experience in applied research into nutrition. Examples are the reformulation of foods, measuring, predicting and understanding health effects and consumer behavior. A great deal of knowledge is available about specific target groups, such as the elderly with increased protein requirement. Gerhard de Ruiter is business unit manager of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, the institute within Wageningen University & Research for applied research into food and nutrition. "We translate the latest scientific insights in the field of product composition into practice, Examples are texture, aroma and innovative process technologies.” says De Ruiter: “We are proud to be able to apply this knowledge to the market.” Thanks to the collaboration with Essensor, these new insights can be applied much faster in sensory consumer research.”

New test methods necessary

Traditionally, consumer panels and 'expert tasters' have been used to develop food and non-food products using human senses such as smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch. In addition to this sensory assessment, consumers also set requirements for sustainability and health before products disappear into the shopping cart. The trade-off that consumers make between 'tasty' and 'other values' calls for new research methods, because consumers tend to respond to these issues in a socially desirable and because their response is often the result of an unconscious process (and not accessible for introspection either). Wageningen scientists are developing indicators for this, such as facial expression, eye tracking, skin resistance, heart rate and reaction times. The collaboration with Essensor The collaboration with Essensor makes it possible to accelerate the implementation of these methods.