Ashley Gutierrez, Sandoz, Gaye, Prinyawiwatkul, Witoon
Ashley Gutierrez is a research and development food scientist and the Food Incubator and Sensory Lab manager, Gaye Sandoz is the director of the Food Incubator and Witoon Prinyawiwatkul is a professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences. This article appears in the fall 2019 issue of Louisiana Agriculture..
The LSU AgCenter Food Incubator is growing as fast as the companies it assists. The incubator is an economic development program that has helped more than 50 tenants start their food businesses. It has received a $2.5 million grant and more than $100,000 in grants from the Louisiana Economic Development and Louisiana Business Incubator Association program.
The current Food Incubator bottling facility can bottle up to 7,000 bottles per day. A new bottling facility, which will be operational in 2020, will house a $1.2 million fully automatic bottling line capable of bottling 25,000 bottles a day. This will allow some larger incubator tenants to continue to process their products here.
The Food Incubator started as innovative technical service center has assisted more than 400 companies and restaurants with research and development, nutrition facts panel preparation, shelf life studies and creating processing authority letters required by the Louisiana Department of Health.
The LSU AgCenter Sensory Services lab is a state-of-the-art facility housed in the Animal and Food Sciences Laboratories Building. Since 2014, this lab has provided consultations, services and education to food and nonfood industries. Services include sensory evaluation and consumer research on flavor, texture, appearance, acceptance or product liking of foods and ingredients. In the past five years, we have tested many food products, including coffee, hot sauce, steak, hot dogs and even king cake.
A food company may require sensory testing for a variety of different reasons. When developing a new product, a company may be interested in learning if consumers like the product. Or, the company may be switching one ingredient or flavor in the product and wants to make sure consumers cannot tell the difference. Ultimately, the goal of sensory science is to reduce risks in decision making about potential products.
In many cases, when a food company requires sensory testing, it has a particular target demographic for a particular product. In 2015, this need led to the launch of the Tiger Tasters program, which gathers consumers from around the Baton Rouge area who meet certain requirements specified by a company in order to participate in a taste test. This program has been wildly successful, with new consumers joining the program after each sensory study. In the future, the goal is to have about 3,000 consumers in the database.