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Sensory Food Network Ireland

Sensory Food Network Ireland is a new national network of excellence, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, under the FIRM programme. The network is coordinated by Dr Eimear Gallagher and Dr Sinéad McCarthy from Teagasc, Ashtown, and also includes all leading institutions with expertise in sensory science from the island of Ireland. The network will work as a sustainable unit to address documented needs and gaps by the food industry in relation to sensory science. It will also ensure that good practice and the highest level of service will be assured to industry.

As well as a first-class service to industry, the network aspires to the highest level of scientific excellence in research in sensory food science. All members of the network are dedicated to developing and improving research into sensory and consumer testing methodologies, with the aim of launching Ireland on the international map in this field. The over-arching objective of the network is to promote integration, ensure sustainability and build a robust model for all sensory science activities on the island of Ireland. One aspect of this will be to accomplish excellence and international recognition in the discipline of sensory science service and research.

Mr Declan Troy, Assistant Director of Research at Teagasc welcomes this initiative: “This network of excellence is of immense strategic importance to the Irish food industry. We are now in a unique situation to develop a world-class capability in sensory food science across the island of Ireland.”

Recognising the importance of sensory science in the food industry has evolved from the increasing need for a scientifically sound and systematic approach to the sensory evaluation of foods. In the past number of years, the field has made substantial progress in developing new methods and approaches, and in advancing our understanding of consumer responses to foods. In food companies, sensory food science has considerable value for both tactical and strategic research goals.

The importance of this network has been endorsed by Mr Richard Howell, Head of Research & Codex Division, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine: “This investment by DAFM will strengthen and integrate the current expertise in sensory food science in Ireland and provide a platform that will better address the commercial needs of the food industry in terms of new product development and the opening of new markets thereby assisting in reaching our Food Harvest 2020 targets. It will also help promote good nutrition and healthy eating.”

Worldwide demand for food, decreasing trade barriers, changing lifestyles, expanding world markets and removal of EU quotas continue to accelerate the Irish food industry’s need for new products, quality improvements, extended shelf-life and more efficient ways of producing products. Success in this regard depends on the industry’s ability to satisfy consumer demand and expectations. In particular, it needs to develop precise knowledge about how these sensory expectations are implemented and measured.

Sensory Food Network Ireland will have a dual role to play in serving the Irish food industry: Firstly, as a specialist service to the marketing, development and manufacture of new and modified food products. Monitoring competition by evaluating new and current competitive products, measuring new product differences as a function of scale-up, measuring sensory differences as a consequence of lowering production costs or ingredient/packaging variables. Secondly, it has a research role in improving the methodology of testing, devising the most appropriate tests for real-time problems and improving the expertise in flavour chemistry and sensometric methodologies.

The network of excellence will strengthen existing scientific and technological excellence in sensory science by integrating at national level the critical mass of resources and expertise needed to provide leadership and to be a future international force in this area. This expertise will be networked around a joint programme of activities (both research and service provision) aimed principally at creating a progressive and durable integration of the research capacities of the network partners, while, at the same time, advancing knowledge on the topic.

The coordinators and partners are proactively seeking interaction with industry and other research institutes. We invite you to contact us via email: SensoryFoodNetworkIreland@teagasc.ie

A dedicated website will provide updated information on training events, research highlights and upcoming seminars and conferences www.SensoryFoodNetworkIreland.ie