Food Science Job Types - Sensory Scientist

What is a Sensory Scientist?

A sensory scientist is the individual in the research and development department who is the liaison between R&D and the consumer. Through testing, they determine what the consumer wants. Years ago, tests were done in malls, asking shoppers or others to taste and or smell a few different varieties of the same product, and getting their taste preferences. But in current day, sensory science has become a much more sophisticated science.  It has become a critical role R&D, as the information they can provide can start the product development process on the right path. A sensory scientist works as a partner with product development teams, providing cross functional support to teams by designing, executing, analyzing and reporting all kinds of tests; descriptive analysis, shelf life testing, discrimination testing and consumer research. Others on the team include marketing, marketing research, quality assurance, manufacturing and other scientists to focus on the project objective, whether it be developing a new food product, or improving one. The sensory scientist leverages the power of statistics through test design and data interpretation while building a strong relationship with the internal statistics department. They provide technical recommendations based on knowledge of food chemistry, packaging, and product development as it applies to sensory and consumer research. They keep current with advancements in sensory and consumer research, ingredient technology and food science by taking advantage of technical journals, and networking with colleagues and experts in the field.

An MS or PhD in Food Science is generally preferred. There are a few very strong sensory science graduate programs in Food Science departments around the US. Depending on the role, statistics in often a plus. Strong communication skills and business acumen are necessary. They need to have critical thinking skills and be able to apply the most effective testing methods to deliver business objectives. They also need to be able to influence business leaders to ensure best approaches are adopted as a result of sensory input. Some travel is involved, as they, in some cases, be would be working with and traveling to suppliers.

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