A REVIEW OF THE III AEPAS CONGRESS
Laura López Más, PhD student, Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA), Spain
Patricia Puerta, PhD student, Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology – Spanish National Research Council (IATA-CSIC), Spain
Noelia Da Quinta, PhD student, AZTI, Spain
The third edition of AEPAS Congress was again a meeting point where scientific and industrial knowledge could be shared. The attendance of 130 people (75% nationals) highlights its reputation. This year’s attendees were professionals from Argentina, France, Italy, Mexico, Portugal and Uruguay. In addition, it still was a tradition that a student from the Società Italiana di Scienze Sensoriale (SISS) gave an oral presentation. The AEPAS Congress involved 116 accepted abstracts to be presented at the congress, 3 workshops, as well as 5 presentations from keynote speakers.
One of the novelties this year has been to give more visibility to future professionals working in the field of sensory science through granting the first edition of the “Awards for the three best student communications” and this year’s winners were Patricia Puerta Gil (IATA-CSIC), Noelia Da Quinta González (AZTI) and Laura López Mas (IRTA).
After two workshops about R and FIZZ, the congress was opened by Patxi Pérez Elortondo, President of AEPAS and member of the scientific and organisation committee, Íñigo Martínez de Marañón, Technological Manager of AZTI and Patricia Gutiérrez, Communication and Marketing Manager of Basque Culinary Center, who emphasised the current challenges that sensory scientists need to overcome, including, global issues such as sustainability and quality assurance.
The first session included studies associated with consumer’s personalisation and well-being. The keynote speaker presentation was performed by Dr. Lisa Methven, professor at the University of Reading (UK). The objective of this session was to examine the eating behaviour of specific groups in the population. It should be highlighted that remarkable interest was shown to different groups of consumers as well as to the adaptation of research methodologies used. In this context, several studies have been published focusing on the sensory response of children, young adults, elderly, oncologic patients, and blind people. In addition, this session included other topics such as the study of expectations and purchase drivers of specific products.
Learning, feeling. Two principles that come along with us through the knowledge of sensory analysis. Given that feeling has a lot to do with emotions, in this edition of the congress, we have found a great deal of research focused on the emotions that goes hand-in-hand with eating. Not only the food itself, but also everything that involves it, from the first contact when we choose an aliment, until we eat it, through the social event linked to it or the moment in which we consume it. For example, the importance of the emotional response linked to breakfast was discussed, showing that both what we eat and also the context matter. But, we can extrapolate the emotions even further and look into what some particular foods make us feel, as shown by some works associating emotional responses with products such as chocolate, beer, smoothies or wine. Nonetheless, this answer not only depends on the product. Also, our age or health status have an important influence on how food makes us feel and our perception, as we have seen reflected in the research focusing on personalisation as mentioned above, with children, young people or cancer patients.
Within the session “Food quality”, introduced by the plenary conference of Isolda Vila and Iñaki Etaio, most communications were related to sensory characterisation techniques, which ranged from descriptive profile analysis with a trained panel to CATA questions (Check-All-That-Apply), Napping® and Flash Profiling. Also, a wide variety of products was characterised, ranging from wine, beer, honey, jam, nougat, sausage, broth, fruit, nut, beans, coffee, bread, and cheese, as well as, products that are less frequently sensorially described such as Oaxaca mezcal, black truffle, and infant starter milks.
However, we should not solely focus on what we study but also on how we analyse it. A challenge then emerges for the professionals in this area: how consumers’ response can be studied in a natural and realistic mode? Being aware of this variable, more and more studies are trying to recreate the situation of consumption or choice of products in an ecological manner, thereby fully immersing the consumer in these situations. Following this philosophy, studies have been carried out in real purchase situations, such as simulated supermarket shelves or consumption at bars. Without a doubt, it represents a great tool that can bring us closer to the behaviour of the consumer in real-life conditions.
Michael Bom Frøst, professor at the University of Copenhagen, opened the session “Sustainability and novel foods”. Among the numerous communications presented, one of the most shocking results was that consumers only show a level of concern between “medium” and “low” for sustainability. Broadly speaking, sustainable/green products have an added value and consumers are willing to pay only a little bit more for these products. However, sustainable/ecological factors determining food choice are not as decisive as intrinsic factors (e.g. quality, food security, flavour) are. Therefore, there is still more need to explore the factors that causing consumers to make more sustainable food choices.
The last session was opened by Dr. Tormod Næs, senior researcher at Nofima (Norway). The research on this topic focussed on the application of new tools in sensory analysis, including the uses of TCATA fading, emojis, collective intelligence, and the development of new lexica to be applied to characterise specific food products. On the other hand, we could also learn about the uses of immersive technologies that evoked a naturalistic context, facial reading, and eye tracking to study of preferences and food choices.
Finally, this year we had the opportunity to enjoy the congress in a unique environment, which invited to enjoy local gastronomy and food. San Sebastián, and especially the Basque Culinary Center, have welcomed us and made us feel at home. And what a better place to celebrate our gala dinner than in a typical cider house where we enjoyed the gastronomy including of course the traditional craft cider… and its corresponding pouring! A real luxury as the final highlight of the APEAS congress – full of sensory research and in good company.
See you all at the IV National Congress of Spanish Professionals Association of Sensory Science (AEPAS), at Logroño (La Rioja, Spain) in 2021!
Patricia Puerta. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patricia-puerta-gil-3460b085/