AJ Banks Travel Bursary recipient, Marit Nijman, reports from Italy

07 January 2019

Marit Nijman was awarded an AJ Banks Travel Bursary to attend Eurosense 2018, in Verona, Italy. Here, she tells us about the presentation of her research, the opportunity to expand her professional network from The Netherlands and how she was awarded the prize for the E3S Student Video competition.

‘I am very thankful to SCI for awarding me with the AJ Banks Travel Bursary 2018 which allowed me to attend Eurosense 2018 and present my research to an international audience of sensory professionals.

‘Nearly 800 delegates attended Eurosense 2018, one of the main conferences in the field of sensory science. This year the conference was organised by the European Sensory Science Society (E3S) and the Italian Sensory Science Society (SISS) and took place in Verona, Italy. The conference was titled ‘A Sense of Taste’, where taste can be interpreted in multiple ways, from the taste of (sensory perception) to the taste for (preference). Special focus was given to individual differences in sensory perception, liking, preference, choice and behaviour. The four day programme included nine keynote presentations, 54 oral presentations, 4 workshops and 24 flash poster presentations.

‘The first day started with an opening ceremony by the conference chair Erminio Monteleone, who is Professor of Sensory Food Science at the University of Florence.  His word of welcome was followed by two keynote presentations. The first keynote speaker was John Prescott from TasteMatters Research & Consulting who gave an excellent talk on the role of learning in sensory preference. The second keynote presentations was delivered by Caterina Dinella from the University of Florence who shared her experiences with a large-scale multidisciplinary study on food preferences and choice called the ‘Italian Taste Project’. Both talks fitted perfectly with the theme of the conference, emphasising the importance of individual differences in sensory consumer research. The first day was rounded off with a Campari tasting and a chance to network in a relaxed atmosphere.

‘I was honoured to give my talk titled ‘Context Matters: The effect of consumption context on consumer hedonics, emotional response and product choice’ during a session which was dedicated to context studies. My PhD project is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch InBev and the University of Nottingham, supervised by Dr Rebecca Ford. My research investigates how context impacts consumers’ emotional response to beer products, facilitating improved methodology for sensory consumer research. Measuring consumers’ emotional response to products has gained a lot of interest in the field of sensory science. My research has shown that the context in which a beer is served and tested has an influence on consumers’ emotional response, as well as hedonic preference and choice behaviour. Interestingly, I found that discrimination between two beer products using emotional response data was stronger when the beers were tasted in a bar compared to a sensory laboratory setting. I also discovered three consumer clusters who differed in their beer preference and their sensitivity to the beer drinking context. Two of the clusters showed a stable preference regardless of where the beers were tasted. However, a third and largest consumer cluster was very sensitive to context. My research shows that test environment has a notable impact on the response of a large proportion of consumers which significantly impacted the overall results. Furthermore, measuring emotional response explained why preference and choice behaviour differed between consumer segments. These findings demonstrate that measuring emotional response provides information beyond overall liking and raise questions regarding the use of controlled environments for consumer testing.

‘At the conference it became clear to me that there was a large interest in the impact of context on consumer responses. There was even an entire workshop dedicated to the use of immersive techniques for in-context consumer research. Attending this workshop was extremely useful for me because it gave me a clear overview on what research has already been carried out on this topic and which research questions still remain unanswered. This gave me a lot of inspiration for my next experimental work.

‘I am originally from the Netherlands and so I was delighted that this conference gave me the opportunity to network with colleagues from the Dutch national sensory organisation, called the Sensorische Vakgroep.  It was very useful for me to meet Dutch colleagues from industry and academia and expand my professional network in the Netherlands as this is where I would like return to after completing my PhD.

‘During the conference, there was a Student award ceremony organised by the E3S. E3S is a confederation consisting of national sensory organisations from 13 European countries (Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom) and is devoted to promote cooperation, shared goals, integration of activities, knowledge and information exchange among national sensory science organisations across Europe. Award winners included students from Italy, Norway and the UK. I was very pleased to be awarded the prize for the E3S Student Video competition which included €100 and a ticket to the conference gala dinner. My colleague Martha Skinner from the University of Nottingham received the special award dedicated to the memory of Pieter Punter (1947-2017) who was an E3S board member and important contributor in the field of sensory consumer science.

‘The conference gala dinner took place at a beautiful venue in Verona called Palazzo e Giardino Giusti where a short walk through the gardens provided an impressive view over the city. There was also excellent catering and live music to enjoy with friends and colleagues.

‘All in all the programme of this year’s Eurosense conference was packed with engaging activities and informative talks. Thanks to the excellent organisation the overall experience was very valuable to me, as well as enjoyable. Attending Eurosense 2018 allowed me to immerse myself in the latest sensory science research, expand my professional network and present my work at an international sensory conference for the first time. This conference also provided me with further insight into the job opportunities that might be out there for me after I finish my PhD. I came away with a lot of new insights and I am very grateful to the SCI for funding my travel and allowing me to attend this event.’

Marit Nijman
PhD Student
University of Nottingham

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