“Not eating garlic pizza helps” – Dr Maximilian Krempe on organoleptic testing
Typically, only our laboratory experts work in our analytical lab. Once in a while, however, employees from production, sales, or human resources also join the team. They smell and taste our products' ingredients. It looks strange at first glance, but it is an important quality control method. To find out what the sensory tests are all about, we talked to Dr Maximilian Krempe, Head of Central Analytical Lab. He explains to us why such tests are needed, how they are conducted, and who can participate.
Why do you need sensory tests in the area of printing inks?
Dr Maximilian Krempe: People get in touch with inks or coatings during production or, at the latest, when they hold the final products in their hands. Smell and taste are strong quality factors. If people find them unpleasant, this can be a physical or psychological burden, even if the products are not toxic.
Can't printing inks simply be produced in different flavours, such as rose-scented?
Dr Maximilian Krempe: Yes, it’s possible to positively influence the odour of inks. In general, however, we focus on odour neutrality.
Why don’t you rely on metering devices instead of test persons?
Dr Maximilian Krempe: We also need machine analysis to quantify the concentration of substances. But the human nose is unique. Sensory tests are very, very complex. Certain combinations of substances produce nuances that the human senses perceive better than any machine. By the way, smell and taste usually work together. If you hold your nose while eating, you taste very little.
Who are your test subjects and how do they prepare themselves?
Dr Maximilian Krempe: Our probands are hubergroup employees, trained in terms of certain wording and categories. Except for that, there is not much to prepare. You should be a little careful not to affect your senses. Not eating garlic pizza helps.
You carry out a pre-selection of all applicants. What criteria are important?
Dr Maximilian Krempe: In general, everyone can participate. Only smoking is an exclusion criterion, as it leads to a limited sensory perception. We also pay attention to sensory performance. From my point of view, anyone who is a gourmet is a perfect test person because they are used to dealing with nuances, be it with wine, with food or with spirits.
How do you motivate employees to volunteer?
Dr Maximilian Krempe: Our employees like to take part in the tests. It is quite an exciting experience to consciously perceive substances, even if they are not always pleasant. And it is a great thing to help define the composition of our products.
How frequently do you conduct sensory tests?
Dr Maximilian Krempe: The tests take place on an incidental basis, for example, for explicit customer enquiries, new product launches, or comparisons within the market.
How do the tests work in detail?
Dr Maximilian Krempe: The odour test is conducted with coated or printed substrates. In order to keep the odour as concentrated as possible, these substrates are stored in jars for a while. For taste tests, our volunteers don't lick printed paper, of course. Instead, we store the samples together with a stimulant until the latter takes over the taste. In our case, the stimulant is chocolate. People eat it and evaluate its taste.
What if it's not the samples that smell or taste unpleasant, but the printed substrate or even the chocolate bar?
Dr Maximilian Krempe: We always use a blind sample as well to have a comparison. In general, a scientific approach to our tests is important because a certain subjectivity cannot be denied. In order to get a significant result, we insist on a minimum of six test persons.