Report E3S Student Award 2016 – Louise den Uijl

E3S EUROSENSE STUDENT AWARD REPORT 2016
LOUISE DEN UIJL, Wageningen UR, Netherlands

Awarded for: Silver senior meals; applying mealtime functionality for tailoring protein-enriched meals to older consumer segments

Louise den Uijl

Louise den Uijl

I would like to thank the European Sensory Science Society (E3S) for the student award that supported me to attend the 7th European conference on sensory and consumer research (Eurosense) in Dijon, France.

The theme of this conference was “A sense of time”. The first key-note speaker, Sylvie Droit Vollet opened the conference with a description of our sense of time and the importance of temporality in sensory & consumer research. Subsequently, Lisa Feldman Barrett gave an overview of emotion facts and fiction in her talk entitled: ‘Emotions inside out’. Amongst others, she explained why the basic emotion theory might be fiction. She stressed that emotions might not be as universal as often is thought, and that they do not seem to have a biological footprint (i.e. fear of getting wet does not have the same biological footprint as, for example fear for a bear). According to her, variation should be the norm, rather than the neural essences as described by Darwin. Another aspect that really inspired me is that our brain should not be considered to be a reactive organ, but that it should be seen as a predictive organ. Our brain runs predictions based on past experiences and corrects them against the outer world. Following this philosophy; our emotions may best be defined as our personal constructs of the world, not our reaction to it.

The second day of the conference started with the E3S PhD award ceremony. The photo on the right gives an impression of the ceremony. Later that day, Kathrin Ohla gave a key-note presentation about the psychophysiological mechanisms of multisensory food perception. Pierre Chandon presented about pleasure, size and food marketing. In this presentation he explained why ‘pleasure’ might be a better focus than ‘healthiness’ in product development and innovation.

den-uijl

On Tuesday, key-note speaker Lisa Methven presented the age-related changes in sensory perception and food behaviour. When people grow older their sensory functioning (especially olfactory and gustatory function) might decrease. Lisa Methven showed that strategies that aim to compensate for these sensory losses may be effective for the frail older population, but not for the more vital and younger part of the senior population. At the end of this conference day, Suzanne Higgs and Per Bruun Brockhoff inspired us with presentations on respectively the role of memories in food choice and the multidisciplinary field of sensometrics.

During the poster session on Tuesday I also presented my own work. As a final year PhD student this poster presentation was a great opportunity to present my work to an international audience and discuss it with experts in my research area. The discussions shed new light on my results and gave me inspiration for my defence in October. My PhD focusses on the development of protein-enriched (PE) meals for older consumer segments. The older group does not always have an adequate protein intake, which is alarming given the important role of protein in muscle maintenance and functioning. Therefore we developed two tailored PE dishes, based on the functional mealtime expectations of older consumer clusters. We tailored one dish to socially-oriented older adults (who reported to associate their evening meals with cosines). This ‘social meal’ communicated the mealtime expectations of the socially-oriented eaters. The other dish was tailored to physical-oriented older adults (who reported to associate their evening meals with e.g. nutrients, physical needs, combat of hunger). This ‘physical meal’ communicated the mealtime expectations of the physical-oriented eaters. Following the model of Grunert & van Trijp (2014), we hypothesized that congruency between mealtime expectations and inferred meal associations would result in a better ‘product-cluster fit’ (i.e. a more positive meal experience). During a home-use test the participants prepared, consumed, and evaluated both dishes. Interestingly, the dishes were accepted very well, which is promising given the low protein awareness of this group. However, in contrast to our expectations, congruency between mealtime associations and inferred meal associations did not necessarily increase meal satisfaction. Future studies are warranted to further explore functional mealtime expectations as a means for tailoring PE meals to older consumers.

During the conference, we did not only talk about food and food perception, but we also got the chance to experience the famous French cuisine during the Gala dinner. Even the mayor of Dijon accompanied us during this memorable dinner at the palace of the Dukes of Burgundy.

During the final day of the conference, key-note speaker Ana Thomas updates us on the differences that matter; learning from innovation across markets and product categories. Hal Mac Fie gave us ‘food for thought’ as the final key-note speaker. Conclusion; sensory science has got to move on!

Luoise Den Uijl