An Overview

Sensory analysis in the last decade of the Twentieth Century has matured considerably since its informal beginnings almost ninety years before. At its inception the field comprised individuals who had little experience in evaluation, who were practitioners of other disciplines, and who made sensory analysis a professional avocation. Techniques developed haltingly as the field developed, with various home grown approaches proposed, implemented, the best culled for further use, and the remainder discarded. The archival early literature of sensory analysis reveals these discarded byways.

Today, thanks to the continued importance of sensory satisfaction placed on products by the food processor and the need to remain competitive in a marketplace of intensely competing brands, manufacturers have refined their test methods. By combining contributions from academia, statistical procedures, psychological and psychophysical test methods, and applying the tests procedures in a business environment which needs accurate and actionable feedback, practitioners have advanced the field considerably. What was once an informal bioassay of a product to determine palatability has become, over the past years, a computer-based technology which quantitatively guides product development to improve consumer acceptance.

Sensory analysis comprises many different methods. Its strength coming from a body of diverse approaches is also its inherent weakness. There is no single set of approaches deemed "appropriate, correct and true" in sensory analysis, but rather different approaches to the same problem, proffered by practitioners. Sensory analysis is a science in development, and a technology in practice. The slow de velopment towards a science is witnessed by the recent emergence of journals in the U.S., and the U.K devoted to sensory analysis as a science. These journals are belated witnesses to that recognition, and to the evolving nature of the field. Whether it takes a year or another lifetime, however, the field will become a true science. The wealth of methods presented to the users in product development, and the literature now available certainly today qualify sensory analysis as a dynamic, evolving, intellectually stimulating and business-relevant technology which has a vital place in product development and marketing. Sensory analysis has earned a key role in food science, and continues to be worthy of that role.

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