Consumer panel to taste Kansas black walnuts in Olathe’s first sensory work
Thursday, February 16, 2012
The new K-State Olathe Sensory Analysis and Consumer Research Center will conduct its first consumer test this month on a Kansas product: black walnuts.
One hundred consumers will munch cookies containing different cultivars of black walnuts in sessions on Feb. 21 and 22. In blind tastings, they will rate six cultivars for flavor intensity and degree of liking, according to Ashley Miller, master’s degree student in sensory analysis, who is conducting the research with Delores Chambers, associate professor in human nutrition and co-director of the Sensory Analysis Center.
The Olathe phase of the research is called “Consumer Hedonic (Liking) and Flavor Intensity Ratings of Black Walnut Sugar Cookies.”
The results will help growers in Kansas understand which cultivars consumers find most acceptable and should set a standard for food manufacturers who use black walnuts in their products, Chambers said.
Kansas is the nation’s top producer of black walnuts. Most are grown in Southeast Kansas.
Before consumer tests, Miller had to conduct descriptive analysis of the black walnuts and develop descriptions of the terms to be used to describe black walnuts. For example, Black Walnut ID, Nutty-Woody, Acrid, and Floral/Fruity are just a few of the attributes that were found in the black walnut cultivars used in her study.
The descriptive part of the research, which took place on the Manhattan campus, involved professional panelists who have more than 2,000 hours of training and experience in sensory analysis.
“We will correlate the data from the consumer test with the descriptive data,” Miller explained. “By looking at these two data outputs we can determine which cultivars the consumers found most acceptable and relate that to the dominant attributes found in those particular cultivars based on the descriptive analysis done with the trained panel.
“For example, suppose cultivar A was the most acceptable with the consumers, and it was given high intensity ratings in Black Walnut ID, Overall Nutty, Floral/Fruity, and had low intensity ratings in Acrid and Bitter.”
Miller is an alternate to the ninth annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit Thursday in Docking State Office Building, Topeka. During the summit, 10 K-State graduate students will be among those sharing their findings with legislators, the Kansas Board of Regents, industry representatives and other attendees.
Her research was on the descriptive data phase: “Defining and Characterizing the 'Nutty' Attribute Across Food Categories.”
College of Human Ecology Sensory Analysis Center offers graduate programs in sensory analysis and consumer behavior, provides testing services to companies worldwide and maintains satellite centers at K-State's campus in Olathe, Kansas, and in Bangkok, Thailand.
Prepared by Human Ecology communications