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Sensory testing facility will help industry improve taste and texture

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Sensory testing facility will help industry improve taste and texture

Sensory testing facility will help industry improve taste and texture
June 05
12:45 2013

A new state-of-the-art sensory testing facility at Newcastle University will help industry and academics come together to improve the quality, taste and texture of food.

The new €825,000 (£700,000) facility will provide opportunities to bring world leading expertise in food and human nutrition from Newcastle University together with food industry professionals to develop new and improved foods.

The centre will add to university’s NU-Food  facility, and also includes a demonstration teaching kitchen and an assessment suite for nutrition and health trials.

“NU-Food provides the perfect setting to support and validate new product development in the food industry,” said Professor Chris Seal, director of Nu-Food and professor of food and human nutrition at Newcastle University.

“A facility of this size is unique in the region and gives us a greater opportunity to share our research and expertise with the industry and further boost the region’s competitiveness in this field,” he added.

Tomato trial
One of the first trials taking place at the Nu-Food facility is research to evaluate the best ways to store tomatoes – from plough to plate.

The ‘Room versus Refrigerator’ study, sponsored by a leading supermarket, involves volunteers are taking part in blind taste tests to see if tomatoes taste better stored in the fridge or at room temperature.

“Tomatoes are typically refrigerated from the moment they are picked off the plant in order to extend their shelf life but there is a trade-off and that’s a loss of that ‘just-picked’ flavour which diminishes over time,” explained Rosie Dew, who is leading the research.

“We are trying to find the perfect balance between the two; can we, for example, limit the refrigeration to maximise on flavour but not compromise on shelf life, basically ensuring the best tomato for the customer.”

Volunteers are shown to one of the 10 new taste-testing booths and asked to compare tomatoes kept in a variety of conditions.

The research will look at how producers and suppliers can optimise the tomato supply chain for quality and energy expenditure by altering how tomatoes are stored at three key stages of the supply chain – initial storage and transportation, supermarket storage, and storage at home.

“By mixing these up we hope to find the best combination – for example, is it better to store tomatoes at room temperature when they are first picked, but refrigerate them during transportation?” she said.

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