With new food trends emerging all the time, staying ahead of the competition requires robust science and innovation, according to Kim Millar, PhD, R&D project manager for sensory science at Dawn Farms. Here, we learn about the company’s sensory and taste platform, which supports this approach
Great ingredients make great food and those ingredients come from outstanding food innovation, which is one of the essential building blocks of Dawn Farms’ business, says Kim.
“Dawn Farms supplies a fast-moving market that is constantly evolving, and we constantly research global and local food markets to identify trends, flavours, and technology that help translate ideas into menu offerings for our customers,” she says.
With significant challenges in relation to reduction targets in the market covering everything from fat, sugar and salt to CO2 emissions and cost, it falls to companies like Dawn Farms to come up with solutions. “As innovators, we can leverage sensory science to address these challenges, without impacting the final product. So, the introduction of a dedicated sensory and taste platform to support our research and development team has strengthened our position in responding to this dynamic marketplace. Working closely with our consumer insights team and culinary chefs, our sensory team helps design and develop products that are healthy, sustainable, and delicious.”
Sensory science in food production
The sensory evaluation of food has always been an inherent part of human existence, enabling us to assess the safety and quality of what we eat, and to ensure our nutritional requirements are met. As a constantly evolving discipline, it is now recognised as a scientific field in its own right.
Kim explains: “As our understanding of sensory perception has evolved, so too has our ability to incorporate sensory evaluation into food-product development and customer satisfaction. Dawn Farms has developed a science-based approach for our sensory platform to support our innovation efforts and drive exceptional quality standards, revolutionising our new product development (NPD).”
Dawn Farms’ sensory-science platform has established two types of sensory methodologies to address various NPD challenges:
Dawn Farms has its own team of trained panellists, equipped with keen senses and a passion for flavour exploration who meticulously analyse and describe the sensory attributes of a food product. They carefully identify and define flavours, aromas, textures, and even appearance, using a specialised vocabulary – a sensory lexicon – to capture the essence of each sensation. “Using this method, we gain a deeper understanding of the unique characteristics that make our favourite foods so memorable,” says Kim.
Have you ever struggled to choose between two similar food options, unsure of the subtle differences? Discrimination testing aims to detect even the most nuanced variations between products. “Our expert tasters participate in blind taste tests, comparing two or more samples and determining if they can distinguish any dissimilarities. This method helps us identify the finest details that set one product apart from another, allowing us to make more informed choices,” Kim explains.
Winning formula for customer innovation
Sensory analysis is not just a scientific tool; it’s the gateway to customer co-creation according to Kim. “Embracing sensory science as an integral part of our innovation processes, we gain valuable insights into the sensory profiles and preferences of our customers' target consumers, bridging the gap between our customers' preferences and our product offering. This empowers us to develop customised solutions that meet or exceed their expectations, resulting in highly satisfied clients who can confidently offer products that resonate with their own customer base.”
Future of sensory
In the ever-evolving landscape of sensory science, new and exciting developments are shaping the future of the food industry. Kim explains: “Digital sensory evaluation, virtual reality and artificial intelligence and machine learning, are transforming the realm of sensory science, accelerating the pace, predicting behaviour, and optimising product attributes, leading to more precise and targeted product development strategies.
“Our science-and-technology-based approach to sensory analysis will position us and our customers uniquely, providing a competitive advantage in the market.”
Dawn Farms says its approach to sensory science can expedite the product-development process by providing timely feedback on prototypes and formulations.
“This enables us to bring new products to market faster, giving our customers a competitive advantage and demonstrating their commitment to meeting the ever-evolving consumer need,” says Kim.