At Nofima in Ås, our professional sensory panel consists of trained sensory assessors. They perform sensory analysis of food and drink, as well as other products where sensory stimuli are important to the experience.

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    By using adapted test methods according to the objectives and product type, the assessors can objectively assess differences/similarities between products, describe and quantify the products’ sensory characteristics.

    This work is done in collaboration with project managers who administer the projects, facilitate the tasting sessions, and analyse the data from the panel’s completed assessments.

    A tasting panel with unique quality and expertise

    Nofima has worked with sensory science since the 1960s and our sensory panel was established in 1974. We have a professionally trained tasting panel consisting of permanently employed judges who perform sensory analyses throughout the year.

    The panel provides objective data for sensory characteristics of any type of food, from initial product development to the finished product, in addition to important analyses within research projects.

    Our sensory panel is a unique, human instrument that provides high quality analyses and that we are immensely proud of.

    Our judges – taste experts

    Our panellists have been selected based on their smelling and tasting abilities, as well as their ability to communicate their perception accurately.

    The assessors are trained and tested regularly to ensure that the panel is up to date on sensory methodology, current raw materials and issues.

    The panel can carry out assignments for both research and industry at any time and meets strict requirements for trained expert panels. 

    Sensory tests – for research and industry

    Sensory science is important for food research because the work results in products that someone will consume and enjoy. Our test panel conducts objective sensory analyses as part of research projects, and is also available to directly carry out assessments and tests for industry actors on demand.

    The panel can perform a vast array sensory tests such as:

    • Generic Descriptive Analysis (intensity of a product’s sensory attributes)
    • Discrimination tests (paired comparison, triangle and tetrad tests)
    • Projective Mapping/Napping (sorting method)
    • Check-All-That-Apply (CATA)
    • Analysis of a product’s sensory attributes compared to references, inspired by Spectrum™
    • Temporal Dominance of Sensations (TDS) and Temporal Check-All-That-Apply (TCATA) (which attributes are dominant over time?)

    These types of analyses may be relevant for:

    • Troubleshooting
    • Product differentiation
    • Quality assurance in the event of recipe or process changes
    • Throughout a product development process where objective sensory data are needed

    Data from our sensory panel can be supplemented with consumer tests conducted under controlled conditions by Nofima to better understand the interactions between a product’s sensory attributes and consumer preferences.

    Facilities and equipment

    The sensory laboratory’s premises and facilities meet lighting and air quality requirements to ensure the validity and quality of the results.

    Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima

    Infrastructure and expertise:

    • Trained sensory assessors
    • Sensory expertise comprising of the sensory panel, project managers and researchers/scientists who follow projects from A to Z 
    • A well-equipped kitchen that enables controlled conditions for sample preparation 
    • Equipment for biometric analyses (e.g. FaceReader)
    • Sensory booths with the possibility of using coloured light (red, green, blue) to mask samples as needed
    • Digital collection of data using advanced statistical software
    • Analysis and presentation of data using customised software such as EyeQuestion, EyeOpenR, PanelCheck and ConsumerCheck.
    • Facilities and equipment suitable for focus groups and in-depth interviews

    Fact boxes

    What is flavour?

    Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima

    Flavour is a combination of all the basic tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami), in addition to a variety of aromas.

    • If you hold your nose, only the five basic tastes can be recognised. 
    • About 80% of what we call “taste” in common language, is actually aroma or odour. That is why food hardly tastes of anything when you get a cold or nasal congestion.
    • Earlier research has shown that the myth of different taste areas on the tongue is not true, one can feel all the basic tastes on the entire tongue, at the back of the tongue, in the palate and also in the throat. 
    • We humans have about 10,000 taste papillae and 400 odour receptors, so it is no wonder that flavour is complex! For example, coffee contains more than 1,000 flavours/aromas. 
    • We all have a different sensitivity to different tastes. Our sensory assessors at Nofima have very sensitive palates and they can detect tiny nuances of flavour and odour in a product.
    • Practice makes perfect, and the same applies to taste. We can all practice tasting food and drink and get better and more accurate at describing their sensory attributes experiences.
    • There are certain flavours and odours that only some of us can perceive or recognise, since they depend on genetic conditions (e.g. boar taint).
    • From an industry perspective, it pays off to use resources on mapping a product’s sensory properties, as this may lead to better product optimalization, increased chance of consumer acceptance and repeat purchases, which in turn may yield more viable products.

    What is a sensory test?

    Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima

    In a sensory test, the senses are used to assess the appearance, odour, flavour/taste, sound and/or texture of a product.

    • A sensory test can be either subjective or objective, depending on the aim of the test.
    • In a subjective sensory test (consumer test), consumers taste one or more products and answer questions about how much they like a product and/or which they prefer.
    • Most consumer tests should have at least 100 participants to produce robust results. The participants must be representative of the target group. Internal company tests should be avoided as employees may not be neutral towards neither the test nor the product.
    • In an objective sensory test, trained sensory assessors evaluate the products to judge whether the products are sensorially similar/different (discrimination tests) or to describe their sensory attributes (descriptive tests).
    • In addition to food and drink; packaging, cosmetics, toothpaste and other products can also be evaluated sensorially.

    Examples of methods that can be used are:

    • Sensory profiling (Quantitative Descriptive Analysis (QDA®), Generic Descriptive Analysis)
    • Product assessment
    • Check All That Apply (CATA)
    • Discrimination tests such as paired comparison, triangle, duo-trio, A not A and tetrad tests
    • Ranking
    • Projective mapping/Napping®
    • Pivot profiling
    • Spectrum™
    • Temporal Dominance of Sensations (TDS)
    • Temporal Check All That Apply (TCATA)

    What is sensory science

    Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima

    Sensory science is the study of how our senses are stimulated by sight, smell, taste, touch or sound.

    • Consciously or unconsciously, we record, measure, analyse and interpret sensory impressions at all times.
    • Sensory impressions can be measured objectively using sensory analysis, where trained assessors communicate and quantify how they experience the impressions.

    What is a test panel for sensory analysis? 

    Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima

    A test panel sensory analysis is a group of qualified assessors who conduct sensory analyses. 

    There are three types of test panel:

    • The highly trained panel is the most advanced panel consisting of well-trained assessors who perform objective analyses. There should be eight to twelve assessors. Nofima has a highly trained panel consisting of ten assessors.
    • Sensory quality control panels are often used in the industry and consists of assessors who are experts in the relevant products.
    • Consumer panels consist of a large number of untrained panellists who represent a defined consumer group and conduct subjective analyses.

    What is product differentiation?

    Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima

    Product differentiation describes how one product differs from others based on characteristics that the customer/consumer perceives to be meaningful, relevant and valuable.

    • Important insights that manufacturers can use to tailor their products according to a desired sensory profile
    • Sensory product differentiation can be assessed objectively using sensory analysis
    • The effect of product differentiation can be measured using consumer testing, where data on the consumers’ reaction to the product, included the effect of feelings and relations towards the brand can be measured

    Images from the test panel 

    All photos: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima


    Visiting adress

    Nofima AS
    Osloveien 1
    1433 Ås