WFBR and Essensor, partners in food and behaviour research

Published on
February 25, 2021

Moving from Ede to Wageningen is a minor step on a global scale. Moving to Wageningen Campus offers a lot of advantages for Essensor. Just look at all the cooperation with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research that has been possible since October last year. “It’s a big advantage when you’re just around the corner from one another.”

Essensor is European market leader in sensory food research. This means that the company has all kinds of inhouse facilities in addition to the measuring methods to enable performance of this research in a standardised manner. “We’ve got two big operations going on”, explains research director Wim Vaessen: “First of all, we get our expert panels to describe food products objectively. These trained tasters rank in the top ten per cent in the Netherlands when it comes to smelling and tasting. Their sole task is to describe products objectively and in comprehensible language. This helps product developers to make products with less salt, fat or sugar without affecting the taste for example. Our second operation is very similar to this: for this we use other panel members for identifying what they think about the product as consumers. Taste is key here.”

Put into practice more quickly

Annelies Dijk
Annelies Dijk

Annelies Dijk is R&D manager at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. Last year in October, her research institute entered into a cooperation agreement with Essensor. She explains why: “Within our institute, my team is working on scientific research into the relationship between food, health and consumer behaviour. We do this partly with the help of laboratory models. This enables us, for example, to simulate the gastrointestinal tract to show how an ingredient moves through it and to what extent nutrients end up in a certain place in the body. We also perform a lot of human intervention studies into health effects of food. We also carry out scientific consumer research: in the lab, on location in the supermarket or the care centre and with people at home for example. We translate the latest scientific insights into practice, so that companies and society will ultimately be able to take advantage of all the insights we obtain. Our cooperation with Essensor means we can put new applications into practice more quickly.”

Wim Vaessen agrees: “We are a practical research institute. We supply companies with data they can use to make practical decisions. The food industry is changing quickly as the consumer is increasingly influenced by factors such as health and sustainability. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research and Essensor work together on these kinds of themes. The main challenge for the coming years revolves around how the consumer can be involved more in changes in the food chain.”

Mood rooms

Wim Vaessen
Wim Vaessen

Both see lots of opportunities for cooperation. Wim Vaessen: “I find it interesting to look at how we can help one another in setting up facilities. Think of a virtual reality environment in which it’s much easier to measure the effect of environmental factors on consumer behaviour.”

Annelies Dijk adds: “In these mood rooms, you can create an ambiance that brings you closer to real consumer behaviour. For many innovations in food, the consumer is key. You therefore need to understand the consumer better in order to engage him or her throughout the entire process, from product development and the choice of purchase in the shop to preparation and consumption.”

COVID experiences

With Essensor’s move to Wageningen both organisations are now located a stone’s throw from one another. Other companies that Essensor cooperates with are also now ‘in the back garden’. “It has turned out to be a good decision to move, also in view of COVID-19. In Ede, the routing was more complicated as we were on the second floor. In Wageningen we’ve got much more space on the ground floor and there’s proportionately a lot more square metres of test space than office space. That is what we want, because the research participants need more space and our employees work more from home. Due to COVID measures we’re  forced to work at low capacity now, but our clients remain faithful to us. And we’ve been extra grateful for this during this difficult period.”