UA Divsion of Agriculture

Major Research Programs

within the Institute of Food Science and Engineering

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Sensory Science Program

Descriptive analysis panel

     Sensory evaluation, especially descriptive analysis, is a vital part of food research.  At the University of Arkansas, the Sensory Science Program is organized into three interactive research groups.

  • Sensory Properties Characterization addresses the development of evaluation methods and quality assessment.
  • Consumer and Market Research addresses the development of a better understanding of consumer preference and acceptance of food products.
  • Analytical Tools Development focuses on development of alternative methods for predicting sensory properties of foods.

     The Sensory Science Program is under the direction of sensory scientist Dr. Jean-Francois Meullenet. Evaluations are made in a state-of-the-art sensory laboratory in compliance with standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials. Computer data acquistion in the panel booths allows rapid data tabulation and analysis.

    An important component of this Program is the Institute's Descriptive Sensory Panel. Members of this panel are trained to qualify and quantify sensory properties of foods.  The University of Arkansas is the only university in the nation with a descriptive panel trained by Sensory Spectrum to conduct flavor and texture profiling.  The panel, which has over 1,000 hours of experience, has the ability to precisely describe food products in terms of their appearance, aroma, flavor and texture. Panel leader Tonya Tokar organizes and conducts the sensory testing.  To meet the growing demand for sensory evaluation of products, a second group of panelists has been trained.

     The program has performed analysis for many national companies.  Factors contributing to strong demand for the panel's services include fast turnaround of industry R&D projects and reasonable evaluation costs. The panel is also involved with research projects such as evaluations of rice quality, fortified wheat flour, pickle crispness and carrot bitterness, as well as sensory profiling of southern pea pods and texture profiling of potato chips.

    A primary research area within the Sensory Science Program is the development of instrumental methods that predict consumer acceptance of products. This research uses both sensory and analytical methods. The researchers are working to develop instruments that produce data that correlate with product evaluations by the sensory panel. This research, which provides insight into the physiology of perception, is focused primarily on food texture.

The Sensory Science Program's website provides in-depth information about the activities within this program. Link to Sensory Science Program website