Post of the month August 2018


A review of the 2018 IFST Sensory Science Group Conference

Marit Nijman, PhD Student at The University of Nottingham
7th June 2018 – University College Birmingham, United Kingdom

This year’s IFST SSG conference was titled ‘Health is Wealth’, exploring the link between sensory research and health. The 2018 IFST Sensory Science Group Conference was hosted by University College Birmingham and attended by students, academics, and industry researchers.

The day started with a welcome from the chair of the IFST Sensory Science group Stephanie Mitchell, followed by the first talk of the day by Dr Martin Kern from SAM Sensory and Marketing International who explained how consumers conceptualise Wellbeing in relation to food and drinks across the world. Not surprisingly, a large-scale survey conducted in 14 countries revealed very interesting cross-cultural differences in how consumers defined wellbeing.

Professor Martin Yeomans, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Sussex taught us about the ‘new Sensory Specific Satiety’ which he calls Hedonic Sensory Contrast, and which suggests that liking is affected by degree of hedonic contrast between food items. Generally people will eat more of products with a high hedonic palatability than products with low liking scores. Interestingly enough though, contrasting between an unpleasant and pleasant tasting foods will have a bigger effect on liking and food intake than when participants are only exposed to pleasant or only unpleasant tasting foods.

Lisa Dreyfuss from Biofortis presented a method to support wellbeing claims on packaging using a questionnaire based on an extensive literature review. Since well-being can be an elusive concept and covers physical, intellectual, psychological/emotional, social, spiritual, occupational and environmental dimensions, Biofortis developed the questionnaire as a tool to measure all these aspects and help support specific well-being related claims for consumer products.

A novel element to the conference was the Student Flash Poster Presentation session, where six students had the opportunity to present their work to the audience. This allowed me and four other students to give a 10 minute talk in addition to having our research displayed in the poster area.

My work focuses on measuring the effect of context on consumers’ emotional responses to beer products. That might not seem like a topic that relates to health, but if my findings allow improvement of sensory consumer research methods, that would support the food industry in the development of products that are healthier, but still well-liked. I found different clusters of consumers in my experimental data that had varying product preferences and that also differed in how sensitive they were to context. Although some consumers are very sensitive to context and significantly change their preference depending on whether they taste beer samples in a bar or a sensory laboratory, you can improve their results in the lab by asking them to imagine being in a bar. That means that for this group of people you can improve external validity in a simple way while still testing products in a controlled setting.

Leonardi Louis from Cardiff Metropolitan University presented some very interesting research on the effects of ingredients on the sensory characteristics and consumer preferences of gluten free-bread. A highly relevant topic since more and more consumers choose to avoid gluten in their diet. His work will hopefully contribute to tastier gluten free bread in the future.

A high intake of sodium is related to health problems and therefore Katherine Hurst from the University of Nottingham is studying sodium release from crisps during food oral processing. In her 10-minute presentation she described the methods she used to study the release of sodium in the mouth using different commercial crisp products. The excellent work Katherine is doing in this area will provide strategies for salt reduction in food products.

Lucy Turner from the University of Reading held a passionate talk about the unexpectedly large variation in flavours of different varieties of Apium graveolens, better known as celery. Her PhD project aims to relate volatile analysis to the odour perception of this healthy green.

Imogen Ramsey from the University of Nottingham aims to improve the sensory characteristics of low alcohol beer. She did an excellent job presenting her research on the influence of ethanol on drivers of liking in beer and managed to relate her findings to that of other speakers. She was rewarded with the Student Flash poster prize which included a one-year membership to the IFST as well a hundred pounds!

During the lunch break the students presented their posters in the poster area. Beyond the work that was presented in the flash poster competition, there were posters on a range of different sensory topics ranging from the effects of rating scale length on sample discrimination to consumer acceptability of bitterness in Brussel sprouts.

After the lunch break it was time for a fascinating talk by Professor Carl Philpott from the Rhinology & ENT research group at Norwich medical school and James Paget University hospital. He gave us an insight to what it is like to live with olfactory disorders and opened our eyes to the many implications a reduced sense of smell can have on a sufferer’s life and health.

Dr Sarah Santos-Murphy, Mark Erwins and Mandy Lloyd from University College Birmingham treated us to an interactive workshop on how the microstructure of ice cream impacts our perception and liking. A second workshop was hosted by Deiniol Pritchard from The Fat Duck Group, who challenged our creativity and gave us new ways of thinking about taste, flavour and texture combinations by developing our own salad.

The final talk of the day was delivered by Felix Kormelink from Mars Global R&D. He spoke about the ways Mars as a food producer tries to facilitate healthy eating for its consumers.

All in all the programme of this year’s IFST SSG conference was packed with engaging activities and informative talks. Thanks to the excellent organisation the conference was a great success. I came away from the day with a lot of new insights and I am grateful for the opportunity the organisers gave me to present my work. I look forward to attending the conference again next year!



Written by Marit Nijman

Sensory Science PhD student

University of Nottingham

School of Biosciences

Division of Food Science

Email me at

Or contact me via LinkedIn:


Share this