Innovations in consumer research at the 13th international sensory sciences conference.


The 13th international convention of sensory sciences and consumer science, entitled " Engage the future" and dedicated to the memory of Rose Marie Pangborn, was recently held in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. The event, which takes place every two years in a different country, has brought together over 1200 delegates and over forty companies and research centers.

Sensory sciences are a scientific discipline born in the 60s. The purpose of sensory sciences is to analyse consumer products through the use of panels of expert or untrained evaluators who use standardised test protocols to answer questions of great importance for manufacturing companies. The particularity of the tests is the use of human senses to express evaluations.

The application of sensory tests allows us to understand with a high degree of precision and reliability of the statistical data, what the consumer reaction is when it comes into contact with the product. Some practical cases, by way of example, include whether, after the substitution of an ingredient or a phase of the production process, the resulting product is perceived as equal or different with respect to the original formulation. The application of sensory analysis allows to make more precise and efficient activities such as quality control, the development of new products or the optimization of existing products. In addition to the agri-food market, this discipline finds great application opportunities also in the field of cosmetics, textile and leather production, automotive industry, consumer electronics and the pharmaceutical sector.

A further evolution of sensory analysis is called consumer science. Derived methodologies are in this case more oriented to the study of consumer behaviour with the aim of predicting attitudes and directing marketing and technical characteristics of products in order to maximize commercial success.

At the conference, which took place in the prestigious Edinburgh International Conference Centre between 28 July and 1 August, very high scientific contributions were presented which show how this discipline, the first prerogative of large companies and research centres, it can become common in small and medium-sized enterprises, through the use of rapid tests, which take into consideration the unconscious behaviour and emotional reactions to the product together with the sensory reaction. In this way the discipline is linked to other fields in rapid and recent evolution such as neuromarketing, big data applications, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality applications.

The Sardinian start-up Smart Sensory Solutions participated as an exhibitor at the conference to present its main product, the Smart Sensory box (SSb). SSb is a software-hardware platform that uses IoT technologies to simplify the application of sensory analysis and to make them easily manageable for SMEs, reducing operating costs and complexity and removing all the obstacles that have prevented until now the appropriate dissemination of these methodologies in European companies. The company, which is based in the CUBACT technological incubator of the University of Sassari, obtained both commercial feedback and praises on its product, an excellent result being the Pangborn Symposium, the most significative scientific event in this sector.

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