One of the research interests of the Product Development Research Centre is consumers’ perception of product quality and the use of consumers to define product quality. The centre has two postgraduate students working in this research area and is working with both local and international companies to develop consumer orientated quality programmes. Central to this theme is using a range of consumer sensory methodologies that enable a relationship to be established between the consumer liking or quality perception and one or more quality measures.
Silver Fern Farms
In 2013, in conjunction with Texas Tech University we assisted Silver Fern Farms develop their beef eating quality system, which involved large scale consumer testing in the USA and New Zealand. Working to a tight deadline we had 3960 consumers rate the liking for a total of 23,760 portions of beef over seven testing locations across New Zealand. The testing involved groups of 20 consumers tasting six samples in a one-hour session and typically three groups per evening. For each of the six rounds, 20 samples were cooked and served simultaneously to the 20 consumers. Over different evenings the effect of three different cook methods on meat liking was evaluated.
Silver Fern Farms used the resulting liking data to produce a mathematical formula that expressed consumer liking in terms of grading criteria. The results of this study were used to launch a new premium range, called beef EQ by Silver Fern Farms. Using the consumer-derived formula enables a consistently high quality to be delivered to the consumer.
Flyhidrate is a unique three drink in-flight beverage system designed to mitigate the physiological stresses of flying. The Flyhidrate drinks are now used by national rugby teams and other elite athletes for their international travel. The beverages sytem was recognised with innovations awards at a 2012 airline industry Middle East trade fair and the 2013 NZ Juice and Beverage Awards.
The drink functionality is designed to improved hydration, provide circulation assistance and mitigate the effects of altitude. The drink was developed collaboratively with the Flyhidrate Ltd team, nutrition consultants and the University of Otago's School of Physical Education and the Product Development Research Centre.
The major role of the Product Development Research Centre was not to only formulate three drinks to meet the design brief with its required functionality, but also to make the final formulations and ingredient selection acceptable to consumers. To do this the formulations were carefully balanced and optimised with taste masking techniques, after which consumer acceptability trials took place on flights between Auckland and Los Angeles. Based on the feedback received, the formulations were modified to be commercially acceptable.
For the Flyhidrate project major responsibilities included: contributing to functional ingredient selection, providing advice on manufacture conditions to ensure stability, formulation of laboratory batches for the double blind laboratory-based in-flight simulation and for production scale up assessment.
- Product and Process Development
- Shelf Life
- Troubleshooting and General Consultancy
- Food Safety
- Product Quality
- Flavour Science
- Sensory Science
- Analytical Services