VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
Organisational form: governmental
Focus on: food (& non-food)
Major activities: sensory & consumer research, commercial contracts, consulting & training
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is the leading research and technology company in the Nordic countries. VTT, established in 1942, has a national mandate in Finland, and use its research and knowledge to provide expert services for domestic and international customers and partners both on private and public sectors.
VTT has about 2 600 employees, and uses 4,000,000 hours of brainpower a year to develop new technological solutions as new products, production processes, methods, and services. VTT ensures efficient utilisation of science and technology with the aid of broad international cooperation and networking. VTT provides sensory and consumer research for all stages of innovation process, new product/ service development and in creating successful marketing concepts.
Sensory research is mainly focusing on studying formation and design of flavour and mouth-feel with the special attention to cereal- and plant-based products. Consumer research focuses on acceptability food products and understanding consumers’ food behaviour.
Flavour and texture are the key sensory attributes of food products. VTT supports the development of food applications by producing information that can be utilised in various stages of R&D- process, such as product innovation. Our flavour design knowledge has been exploited in product development for several branches of industry, especially to bakery, fish, ready meal and berry companies. Many of the developed products together with VTT are still on market. The longest customer relationships are of over 20 years’ standing.
Understanding the relations between sensory properties, chemical and physiological composition and impact of processing parameters of food is a prerequisite to successful product development. VTT has a trained in-house sensory panel consisting of skilled assessors.
We have recently established also a unique trained senior panel for developing food and packages especially for senior consumers. Descriptive profiling has successfully been used in novel applications, such as developing user-friendly packages with easy opening and easy reading. Flavour and texture design of cereal materials, development of senior-friendly foods and packages, and enrichment of food with bioactive, underutilized byproducts from sea are our most recent research topics.
Consumer reactions to the sensory characteristics of foods are defined in acceptance studies, which may include a variety of measurements such as domain specific liking, emotions, associations (related e.g. to healthiness), and overall preferences measurements.
The effects of varying product characteristics or other stimuli, such as information, on consumer reactions can also be tested in order to provide support for marketing. With the aim to deeper understand and anticipate consumers’ food choices, consumers may be segmented into groups according to their liking ratings, attitudes, beliefs or socio-demographic characteristics.
Knowledge about the relative role of different food choice criteria and the influence of consumer attitudes on the acceptance of various food products can be applied to the designing of food, food marketing, and consumer-related communication. Besides consumer studies based on tasting actual food products, we also use other methods, such as surveys and qualitative interviews to understand consumers’ life style, attitudes, user experiences and future needs.