In a globalized world, never as many frontiers have been opened at dawn of the 21st century. WTO, European Union, Mercosur, etc.. have become daily realities that impacts markets.
This market globalization goes on par with a reinforced production process in view of guaranteeing standard and physical/chemical properties. Regulations have become stricter with the use of internationally accepted norms such as ISO, SQF and HACCP.
Taste, a key buying factor
Food quality control has not been the only major evolution in the food market. The significant changes in lifestyle and values have modified consumers behavior. He is more demanding and wants more than safe food.
Consumers are better informed about nutritional components and ingredients. However, they are are often disoriented in front of the increasing variety of products offered and by the number of advertising messages.
It is proven that good tasting products do not always get the recognition and visibility they deserve. Recent research shows that more than 80% of consumers lack the appropriate information about taste despite the fact that food enjoyment account very significantly in their buying decision.
In this context, many producers have decided to use in-house sensory analysis to measure the taste of their products but, today, still not enough information is forwarded to help the consumer.
The use of a label, serving as a neutral benchmark, brings an appropriate response to this need.
What is sensory analysis ?
The human sensory system is comprised of five senses :
- Sense of sight : Aspect, colour and brilliancy are the initially perceived characteristics. That is why eyesight is one of the dominant senses. Appearance is therefore essential in the buying decision.
- Sense of smell : Sense of smell is centrally perceived by nasal fossae. It allows the perception by the olfactory mucous membrane of volatile molecules through two distinctive channels : a direct channel through inhaling, corresponding to odour and a retro nasal channel that leads to the olfactory mucous membrane, corresponding to aroma.
- Click here to read more on olfactory system by the 2004 Nobel Prize winners.
- Sense of taste : The central organ of taste is the tongue that is furnished with different gustatory receptors according to the shape and the location, and responding to the five essentials tastes : sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami. Tastes are only perceived in liquid phase. If the food is dry, taste will be perceived only after dilution in saliva. On the posterior level of the tongue, gustatory receptors are highly sensitive to sour. On the extreme side edge of the tongue resides sensitive detection zone to savour acid . The area receptive to salty and sweet are on the side edge and at the tip of the tongue. Sweet and salty taste are fast feelings but fugacious while bitterness is perceived with a time lag and is persistent. There is a dumb zone in the middle of the anterior area of the tongue, deprived of gustatory receptors and that is useful for tactile impressions. Taste and sense of smell are intimately linked through the rhino-pharynx channel.
- Sense of sound : Often ignored in food sensory analysis, the ear perceives the cracking, the crunching, the sparkling, etc...
- Sense of touch : Tactile sensitivity is linked to mechanical constraints felt on the level of skin and mucous membranes.
iTQi hedonic approach to sensory analysis
The sensory system reacts to a 3 dimensional stimulus : the qualitative perception resulting from the nature of ingredients, the intensity and finally the hedonic dimension corresponding to the feeling of pleasure or displeasure.
Food flavour depends on the combined feelings of organ senses. This interdependence makes a laboratory analysis of all perceived characteristics impossible, i.e. to determine and express the feeling of each sense separately. Human organs only, largely interdependent, have this unique faculty of being able to interpret and synthesize these subtle criteria and to foresee if those will be liked by others.
Taking all these parameters into account, iTQi has opted for the hedonic approach (the measure of the intensity of pleasure during tasting) rather than the analytical approach (comparison between qualitative and quantitative criteria). It is a unique way to judge the absolute acceptability level of food.