Research aiming to improve understanding around the sensory attributes of confectionery is the objective of new collaboration between US chocolate giant Hershey and academia.
The US confectioner is providing Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, based in Pennsylvania, with a grant of $90,000 to support a laboratory and the development of a programme that will involve consumer insights research, professional development training, and academic courses related to food safety and quality, sensory science, and market research.
The university plans to open the laboratory in February.
The Harrisburg university initiative will allow Hershey to have access to a broader range and diversity of consumer opinions about products and potential products, a spokesperson for Hershey told this publication.
“This data will help the company make key decisions as it develops new and innovative confectionery products in the future,” added the Hershey representative.
Rene Massengale, director of the new Consumer Insights Research Laboratory at the university told ConfectioneryNews.com that the facility will be equipped to allow the monitoring of product quality during the manufacturing process, as well as enabling packaging assessment in addition to shelf life testing, online consumer recruitment and market research surveys.
Although sensory tests are already a common tool in the food industry and research, the way in which we perceive the texture and mouth-feel of liquid and semi-solid foods are “still far from being completely understood,” according to researchers at university of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany who recently carried out a study into senses and texture perception.
They note that whilst taste perception is provided solely by specialised receptors on the tongue, texture perception is thought to be a multi-modality of processes based on a number of different sensory systems.
Dr Kutter and colleagues explained, the complex property of ‘texture’ itself “is the result of numerous physical parameters, mechanical stresses and deformations interacting with these sensory systems.”
They added that sensory attributes such as ‘consistency’ and especially ‘creaminess’ are, multidimensional in nature: “which might be ascribed to the fact that more than one sensory system is included in the process of thickness evaluation.”