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Organoleptic Testing or Sensory Testing

The term organoleptic properties refers to the aspects of food, water or other substances that an individual experiences via the senses. Sensory Evaluation is a scientific discipline used to evoke, measure, analyze, and interpret those responses to products that are perceived by the senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. The terms Organoleptic and Sensory were, historically, interchangeable. In the US, approximately 30 years ago we began using the term Sensory Evaluation and stopped using the term Organoleptic. I remember in graduate school, being directed by my professor, not to use the Organoleptic as it was not truly representative of the discipline. However, in many parts of the world, you will still see the terms interchangeably.

Why is the term Sensory Evaluation used instead of Organoleptic? The origin of the term Organoleptic was based on the smell and taste organs, the tongue and olfactory system. Sensory Evaluation takes into account all the senses and the physiological systems that are associated with each. Like Organoleptic, basic tastes are perceived on the tongue and aroma is perceived by the olfactory system.

Sensory Evaluation also considers texture which is perceived through multiple systems in the body. Somesthesis is the sensory system associated with skin surface: epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous tissue. This system is used to evaluate touch, pressure, heat, cold, itching, tickling. Kinesthesis the sensation of movement or strain in muscles, tendons, and joints: the system is used to evaluate tension, relaxation, and mechanical movement.

Appearance is also a key component of Sensory Evaluation. The vision system is the detector of appearance. Using the eyes, we can measure optical and physical characteristic. Optical characteristics include;

  • Intensity – Intensity of the color (light to dark)

  • Hue – Actual color name (red, green, blue)

  • Chroma – Clarity/purity of color (dull/muddy to bright color)

  • Shininess – Gloss on surface (dull to shiny)

  • Transparency – Visibility through product (transparent to opaque)

  • Physical characteristics include;

    • Size – Actual Dimensions (L, W, D,) (small to large) (short to long)

    • Shape – Description of geometry (circular, square)

    • Thickness – Textural Properties (Stickiness, rough/smooth, loose particles/crumbs, oiliness)

In summary, we tend to use the term Sensory Evaluation over Organoleptic as it is more inclusive of all the senses that play a role in our evaluation of the products, we encounter each day. Regardless of which term you’re using Sensory Spectrum is the best resource to help you meet your project objectives. Reach out to one of our sensory consultants today.


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