The taste panel regrouped in Bleiswijk for its annual review day at the end of January. Researchers Caroline Labrie and Wouter Verkerke brought panel members up to date with the results from the past year and the plans for the future. A new addition in 2012 was the home preparation exercise, which yields additional information on how consumers could handle unfamiliar fruit and vegetables at home.
“Het is heel belangrijk om te kunnen beschikken over een gemotiveerd en objectief panel. Wij nodigen daarom de deelnemers aan het smaakpanel één keer per jaar uit om hen bij te praten. Zo’n bijeenkomst versterkt de betrokkenheid en dat komt de uiteindelijke resultaten ten goede”, zegt onderzoeksleider Verkerke.
“It is crucial to have a motivated and objective panel. So we invite members of the taste panel to come in once a year for an update. Meetings like these reinforce their commitment, and that benefits the final results”, explains research leader Wouter Verkerke.
Seed companies, growers’ associations and supermarkets are increasingly drawing on the services of the Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture taste panel. They come with queries such as “We have ten alternatives for a benchmark. Which product has the best chance?” The members of the taste panel are invited in and assess the products delivered to them on multiple counts. Home preparation was added last year. Verkerke: “This also gives us information on how consumers experience the products tested in their own kitchens, and whether it is possible to dispel certain preconceptions about difficult preparation for example.”The Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture taste panel tests a variety of fruits and vegetables for its different contacts all year round. The group of 170 testers consists of different panels, ranging from trained experts to consumers. Depending on the query, a minimum of 40 testers are invited to participate on each occasion.
“To maintain and strengthen ties with the panel, we organize occasional taste-related activities”, says Wouter Verkerke. “The meeting in January was very successful and certainly reinforced the ties between us. We reviewed the previous year and also offered a glimpse into the future.”
Once again in the coming year, a huge variety of excellent products are to be tested. Guus Vredenburg, the top chef behind culinary consultancy Vredenburg Creatief Culinair (VCC), is closely involved in panel development as the trainer of the expert testers. This year again, he will develop a monthly recipe specially for the Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture taste panel, to be tried out exclusively by the testers. “This is one of the steps we take to strengthen ties with our testers even more. It helps to build lasting ties with our taste panel and to guarantee quality for our clients”, explains Wouter Verkerke.