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The flavor of horticultural products is important to consumers. That is why many growers and breeders have their products tested by the flavor panel of the Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture of Wageningen University & Research. Due to the corona crisis, testing is mainly done at home with the members of the flavor panel. In the future they may get help from VR glasses, so the WUR in a press release.

There are two types of flavor panels. First of all, the consumer panel: that tests the liking of a product. In addition, there are several different rained sensory panels. They distinguish a wide variety of flavor attributes. The highly trained panel members can identify and describe the different flavor attributes in products. These panels make use of a list of flavor attributes (descriptors), for example, juiciness or firmness.

Online training

Due to the corona crisis, many activities of the flavor panels can no longer physically take place at the location in Bleiswijk. This applies, for example to our trained sensory panels. Our sensory panel training takes place online to train our sensory panel to accurately describe their flavor experiences. Half an hour before the training, the panel members pick up a package of products from the WUR in Bleiswijk, so that they are fresh during the online meeting. In the past year, for example, online sensory training was held on the products apples, carrots, and beetroot.

Alternatives for visual assessments

Flavour is also a matter of perception. That is why a small test room supermarket has been recreated in the WUR building in Bleiswijk so that visual assessment can be carried out. Due to the corona crisis, the visual assessment was a challenge. Therefore, last year a number of alternatives were investigated, namely: VR glasses (ie: Virtual Reality), a questionnaire with photos of the samples, and a short visit to the test room supermarket, followed by an assessment at home. In the latter case, the products were collected by the panel members from the WUR building in Bleiswijk and then assessed at home.

Further research

The scores of the flavor panelists with the VR glasses were most similar to the scores during the ‘old normal’. The examined VR glasses resemble a kind of small reading glasses that you attach to a smartphone. A photo of the WUR supermarket can then be viewed at 360° with this. In the coming year, it will be investigated how these VR glasses can be used as effectively as possible for visual research on fruit and vegetables.​

Read also: Sensors and image recognition check the freshness of vine tomatoes

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