Still looking for a healthy sugar?

I’ve given up, and here is why you should too!

Noelle Campbell has called a spade a spade and cleared up the differences between healthy sugar and non healthy sugar.

It doesn’t matter what a celebrity might say, or the minerals and vitamins present. To my knowledge, one sugar cannot be any more or less healthy than another sugar.

There is no healthy sugar.

Only a healthy amount of sugar (hint: it’s as little as possible).

Dr Herb Meiselman - Pragmatic Research for Product Development

Picking up on an idea from Jerry Seinfeld, when a big name from the world of Sensory and Consumer Research comes to Melbourne, I hope to meet with them, buy them a coffee and pick their brains about their specialist topic.

The NZ/OZ Sensory Symposium was recently held in Melbourne and I was lucky enough to catch up with Dr. Herb Meiselman, the guru of emotional research and our keynote speaker. I hope you enjoy it!

Can Trained Panels provide hedonic data better than consumers can scale sensory attributes?

Relying on trained sensory panels or internal employees to provide hedonic ratings has always been a big no-no. However, there have been some recent research findings that show the line between Consumer Research and Sensory Analysis blur, that is trained panels may be able to predict liking and consumers may be able to complete attribute scaling.

Seeking Herb's opinion of which approach he is more comfortable with, Herb said he felt more comfortable relying on consumers to provide attribute scaling, than trained panels to generate liking scores. Herb consistently reminded me: Never de-emphasis the value and importance of hedonic data generated by the target consumer. It can be useful at various stages throughout the product development cycle.

Are Rapid Sensory Profiling methods useful?

We focused on the Rapid Sensory profiling methods that are becoming more popular in consumer guided product development of late. While never one to shy away from recommending large Home Usage Tests or Central Location Tests, Herb sees the potential in methods that allow for co-creation with target consumers.

While some methodological precautions are required, using small consumer groups to guide development can result in cost savings and increased speed of reformulations. Until academic studies catch up and test these assumptions, Herb remains optimistically cautious "We don't know yet if they are valuable, they might be"

Any parting advice?

"Always aim to match a method to a need, not the other way around". Herb remains open to trying new methods if they can be proven by replication and practical outcomes. "Some people are rigid about methods. I want to see something that works, but also meets certain criteria"

Coffee Order?

Herb: English Breakfast Tea, Kevin: Mug of Cappuccino

Dr Herb is an expert in sensory & consumer research and product development evaluation. He has published more papers than Australia has had prime ministers, has worked with the US Defence forces to fuel soldiers and co-founded Targeting the Consumer short courses. He is internationally regarded for his work in the field of emotional research.

Drinking through the nose - What you taste is about far more than what's in the glass...

Sourced directly from

By Jeremy Loadman.

Alcohol and music aren't a bad match. So much so that many of us are scrolling through our music libraries for precisely the right accompaniment to rip the cork out, unscrew, or crack open a favourite tipple. It's common knowledge that certain drinks are best matched to some forms of music and types of atmosphere, but researchers are only now starting to ask how and why.

For Charles Spence, a Professor of experimental psychology at England's Oxford University, understanding this phenomenon lies in the way our senses interact. He explains by way of an analogy involving a lime and a string instrument: “If I gave you a taste of lime, you might think of something green, but if I gave you the acidic taste of lime you might also pick a high-pitched note. Limes don't make a high-pitched sound but when we ask most people in these experiments at Oxford, people will pick the high-pitched sound and maybe a string instrument rather than a brass instrument,” Spence says.

Late last year, he joined with the London Symphony Orchestra and a UK wine company to demonstrate the link between hearing and taste. During the evening people were asked to pair the sound of a cello or flute with that of a light, fruity wine. Overwhelmingly, people matched the taste of the wine with the flute. The aroma inside the glass is only part of the story.

“We are very interested in looking at these cross-sensory matches ... that certain bits of music will match what you are tasting and sort of direct your mind towards certain notes in food and drink,” Spence says. His research, however, goes well beyond the optimum pairing of refrains and refreshments. He is interested in understanding how the brain connects all the senses in order to discover ways of enriching the taste of food and drink.

Spence is thinking not just of sound and taste, but the overall environment: lighting, temperature, sounds and aromas present (this is most important as scientists now believe that 80-95 per cent of what we commonly think of as flavour is actually derived through the nose) - even the feel of the chair, the weight of the glass and the colour of the plate.

“The environment in which we are has an impact on our experience of that which we are drinking and eating. We all think we're just tasting only that which is in the glass, but environmental cues are sending subtle messages to our brains,” he says.

Unsurprisingly, Spence works closely with experimental chef Heston Blumenthal, who is famed for creating new dishes not in a kitchen but in a laboratory and regularly serves his creations with an olfactory primer.

If you're thinking this is more theatre or fanciful thinking than it is science, Spence cites a simple test as evidence – asking test subjects to compare the sweetness of the same drink coloured with either red or blue colouring. Typically, the blue drink needs to be made 10 per cent sweeter before they will be judged the same.

Spence also relates an experiment he carried out last year where he took people around differently decorated rooms, each with a glass of spirits in one hand and score card in the other. “We changed the environment room by room – we had one grassy room, one room with red lights and round frames and tinkling, high-pitched music and a woody-textured, smoky room. “Even though they knew that the drink had literally not changed, their scores were 15-20 per cent different room by room,” Spence says.

Executive Style's resident cocktail expert, Simon “Booze Hound” McGoram, is also the part-owner of a Bondi cocktail bar and confirms Australian establishments are putting more thought into creating an environment that enhance the drinking experience. McGoram notes the influence of London bar owner and “molecular mixologist” Tony Conigliaro, who like many trailblazing molecular gastronomists is exploring the neurological phenomena of “synethesia” to enhance the experience of his customers.

“Some might visit Conigliaro's bar and say 'this drink is amazing, it's the best tasting Whiskey Sour I've ever had'. But they don't realise that's because the music that's being played, the ambience that's been created, the type of vessel it's been served in, has all been researched beforehand,” McGoram says.

If every customer in a bar orders a different drink, though, how is it possible to create the perfect ambience for everyone?

Spence has some thoughts: “There is one bar in London where they are installing hyper-directional loudspeakers; what was initially used by the American military to deafen Somali pirates. “People at one table would hear one song and the people at the next table would hear another. There is a lot of fun to be had with the technology there.”

Read more:

How to properly pick a perfect parmasen!

The lads at Parmigiano Reggiano have but together a short film (8:25) to explain the sensory characteristics they look for when testing a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

In this film, they put to one side the years of history behind the iconic cheese and focus on the sensations stimulated when evaluating this product. Igino Morini, Official Taster, pays respect to the individual nuances that can occur between each wheel of cheese - acceptable to an artisan product, but not often sort after in todays manufacturing.

"The sensorial analysis is the discipline that enables us to decode and understand the signals received by our senses at the moment of tasting"

Ignio Morini

Ignio Morini

The film talks through sight (colour and visual texture), aroma, flavour and mouthfeel. It also discusses the changes that can be expected depending on the production month or length of maturation. (A personal favourite part of this film is the number of seductive, dreamy gazes our host Ignio lovingly gives to each chunk of Parmesan.)

If you have a few minutes, have a look at this film, you might just learn one or two things to share next time someone asks about parmesan cheese!