At Feast, we drive consumer and sensory science forward by challenging traditional thinking. Our innovative research and expertise are renowned worldwide.
Located on Massey University’s Manawatū campus in Palmerston North, our facility has New Zealand’s only wall-to-wall projected immersive space for consumer sensory product testing. Using this technology, Feast can study human behaviour and perceptions in various settings, including a café, supermarket, and more.
Whether you want to understand how changes in your product formula affect your product, or to evaluate the impact of your packaging and labelling, Feast is the go-to facility for sensory and consumer science. Our laboratory can provide comprehensive insights into consumer behaviour and help your business become more competitive.
Take a virtual tour of the Feast lab
This virtual tour allows you to navigate through our facilities, including our state-of-the-art sensory booths, purpose-built kitchen, and fully equipped training and focus group rooms.
- Select the white circles to move through the building.
- Select and hold to view around the room.
- Hover over the blue and white circles to get information about the room.
Make sure you watch the video in fullscreen mode.
Mixed Reality - Immersive Space
We have the only immersive room in a consumer testing lab in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Where you eat and how it feels changes how you feel about what you eat.
Our immersive room can mimic different eating places such as a café, hospital ward, a home or a supermarket – all scientifically controlled. You could even test food in space or in the mountains!
Mixed Reality - HoloLens
Our HoloLens is another way we change the environment in which panellists test products.
The HoloLens is a pair of mixed reality glasses. Holographic digital content blends seamlessly with the real world. The consumer is immersed in the environment relevant to the study’s focus. This helps us get responses that are similar to responses consumers would have in real life.
Our 12 sensory booths have been designed to ISO-standard. The booths have a communication system for researchers and panellists to speak easily, are temperature controlled and can also accommodate any colour of lighting. This helps to mask appearance differences if required by the study.
One booth is wheelchair accessible.
We can easily serve our panellists from our spacious laboratory-kitchen. Its arrangement is quite flexible and includes state of the art equipment for preparing samples and cooking a wide range of food products.
Focus group rooms
No sensory facility would be complete without spaces that can be used to train panels or for focus group sessions. These rooms have video conferencing and recording for clients to observe our research in action.
Work or study with us
Join our team as a postgraduate, master’s or doctoral student, or enrol in one of our short courses.
This course provides a basic introduction to sensory and consumer science for the food industry. The course focuses on best practices and the types of information you'll get from sensory and consumer testing.
This is an interactive course with a mix of theory and practical lessons. The course focuses on measuring the sensory attributes of food and introduces sensory evaluation techniques for the food industry.
This is an interactive course with a mix of theory and practical lessons. The course looks at the why, who, what, where and when of consumer product testing.
This interactive course is a mix of theory and practical lessons. It is an introduction to how to apply sensory evaluation in the context of quality assurance for the food industry.
If you are studying towards a master's degree or PhD at another university but are interested in a 6-month internship with Feast, we would love to hear from you. Email your application/expression of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who we are
We believe that:
- our science contributes to human and the planet's wellbeing
- our innovative thinking moves sensory and consumer science forward by challenging traditional thinking
- we make a difference to people through quality consumer food experiences.
At Feast, we conduct state-of-the-art consumer and sensory research. We test products and provide solutions for business growth, collaborate with industry, and build sensory science capability.
Our team ethos is inclusive, supportive and collaborative. We aim to develop top talent through passionate leadership – working internationally across disciplines and sharing our expertise through research, education and partnership.
Professor Joanne Hort currently leads a team of two administrators, two research officers, three post-doctoral fellows, two technicians and one research assistant.
Meet our team of food, sensory and consumer science researchers.
Professor Joanne Hort
Dr Amanda Dupas de Matos
Dr Caroline Giezenaar
Dr Ao Chen
Dr Maheeka Weerawarna
Our research focuses on the sensory properties of food, how consumers perceive them and how they interact with other factors affecting consumer food choice behaviour.
We look at how people respond emotionally to food and the importance of where and when people are consuming food. We’re developing consumer and sensory methodologies, including the role of mixed reality in consumer testing, individual taste and multimodal sensory perception.
We're bringing a café atmosphere to Feast laboratories to determine how our environment affects how we feel about the food we eat.
Consumers eat and drink in real places, not in sensory booths. Using our HoloLens virtual reality headset, we were able to immerse consumers in a video of a real café.
We then compared consumer responses in sensory booths with those from a real café and those from a mixed reality environment. Our research showed that sensory booths do not provide accurate consumer data.
Mixed reality offers data comparable to the real café and is a valid tool for collecting consumer data.
Future Foods Catalyst (FCC)
The FCC programme is a New Zealand-Singapore collaboration, aiming to understand consumers':
- motivations and barriers around engaging with alternative proteins
- attitudes to plant-based foods, including sensory criteria, how satiated they feel, and satisfaction compared to traditional proteins.
FCC will help primary industries in New Zealand and Singapore respond to global environmental trends.
NZ Milks mean more (NZ3M)
NZ3M is funded by MBIE's Endeavour Fund.
Industry partners like Fonterra, the a2 Milk Company and Synlait collaborate with Massey's Riddet Institute to explore how different types of milk from cows, goats, sheep and deer affect our health and wellbeing.
The ultimate goal is to promote New Zealand milk as part of a consistently healthy diet that appeals to consumers in North America and Asia.
We investigate cultural differences in the acceptability of fermented foods between Chinese and New Zealand-European cultures. We aim to understand the sensory drivers of food choice behaviours in Chinese consumers and how living in a different culture can change food preferences.
This research is key for the New Zealand industry developing products for overseas markets.
Individual variation in perception
We investigate how different phenotypes impact sensory perception, emotional response and food choice behaviours. Not all consumers are alike. In addition to cultural influences, physiology and genetics also impact sensory perception.
Several Feast projects investigate the impact of independent taste phenotypes, such as:
- Prop Taster Status.
- Sweet Liker Status.
- Thermal Taster Status.
Temporal multiple-intake methodologies
How does sensory perception and emotional response change when you try a product multiple times? Traditional sensory and consumer methods are based on one or two bites/sips of a product. But we don't normally take just one sip or bite unless it tastes bad.
We're adapting temporal methods to measure changes in your sensory perception and emotional response when you try a product multiple times.
Research technicians and assistants
Our team would not be complete without our research technicians and assistants.
We offer consumer and sensory consultancy
It’s a challenge to successfully develop product concepts that consumers want and meet expectations in terms of flavour, texture and quality to gain repeat purchases.
Here at Feast, our experts have years of experience at the cutting edge of sensory and consumer science and have supported companies across the globe.
Why not tap into our expertise? Take a look at some of the options we offer or get in touch with the Feast team to discuss your particular needs.
Prices quoted are indicative only and exclude GST.
We’ll present up to 12 survey questions to your consumers to expedite your progress.
Answers, in an easy-to-follow presentation, to any 12 questions.
We’ll present your ideas to consumers through our survey process to measure idea ranking, purchase intent, purchase frequency and fit to brand.
A recommendation for ideas you can move confidently forward.
Through focused conversations with your target consumer groups, we’ll reveal what customers believe are your ultimate targets. Gain solid insights into your product category, concept, product and/or packaging to boost your ideas and please the widest range of consumers.
- Consumer opinion trends of your product category, concept, product and/or packaging
- Recommendations for improvement.
Using qualitative and quantitative techniques, we’ll schedule consumer groups to allow ideas to flow from one group to the next. Any suggested product changes by one group will influence which products the next group evaluates.
This approach is ideal for products where bench-scale prototypes get made quickly.
Fast, real-time feedback to help you design an optimised product – as directed by your consumers.
Our specially trained experts provide flavour and texture feedback about product differences, the range of flavours and textures within a competitive landscape or how ingredient/processing changes impact your product.
- Vocabulary used to describe flavours and textures as well as key flavours and textures that differentiate products.
- A visual map of relative product placement.
Evaluate up to four of your products by target consumers. Those consumers will tell us the attributes they like most about your product, what prototype to move forward with or why that pesky competitor is stealing your market share.
- Product performance ranking for up to four products.
- Diagnostics for reformulation.
- Open-ended likes and dislikes and purchase intent.
Consumers compare your new product against a gold standard product to determine if changes to your ingredients or process make a noticeable difference.
How an ingredient or process change will impact your product.
Which attributes drive a product to be most appealing to your target consumers? We’ll provide you with detailed insight through consumer feedback and specially trained panellist data on a range of competitor and/or prototype products.
- Clear targets for efficient product development.
- Confidence in your way forward.
We’ll compare your fresh product to the same product at different ages to determine when you can detect the difference in taste and experience.
A shelf life you can be confident in and provides consumers with a similar experience throughout your product’s life span.
On the Dot
Specially trained panellists will identify the product characteristics they experience over time. Product characteristics can range from the intensity of a single attribute over time, such as minty in chewing gum, to the dominant flavours and textures experienced from start to finish.
Insight into the sensory journey experienced overtime to pull out unique product characteristics and descriptions.
We’ll place your product in consumers’ homes to use how they see fit. We’ll gather information at the start, middle and end of using the product over an extended period of time.
- Real world product performance at initial introduction and after repeated usage for up to two products
- Diagnostics for reformulation if repeated product exposure provides less than stellar results
- Open-ended commentary to enlighten you to preparation alterations or additions.
Love all things food? Be a Feast Taster!
Help us make a difference! As a Feast Taster you will get to participate in our important sensory research and will be invited to attend various sensory studies throughout the year, such as virtual reality, discussion groups and lots of product testing.
Read our newsletter
If you would like to request backdated copies of our newsletter, contact email@example.com
Ever wondered how your senses work?
Watch Professor Joanne Hort's inaugural lecture – It's all a matter of taste
Professor Joanne Hort
Joanne Hort is a food science academic specialising in sensory science. Joanne's research focuses on understanding factors affecting consumer perception of food and beverages, and consequent choice behaviour. She is the Fonterra-Riddet Chair of Consumer and Sensory Science.
Who we're working with
Fonterra is a co-operative owned and supplied by about 9,000 farming families in Aotearoa New Zealand. Through the spirit of co-operation and a can-do attitude, Fonterra’s farmers and employees share the goodness of our milk through innovative consumer, foodservice and ingredients brands.
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is a global leader in science, technology and open innovation. We advance science and develop innovative technology to further economic growth and improve lives.
Zespri International Limited
Zespri challenges conventional healthy living beliefs to reawaken the connection between nature, food and well-being. We want to help consumers around the world to live healthy for themselves and their loved ones.
The Riddet Institute produces world class research in food innovation and nutritional sciences through extensive national and international research collaborations. It is committed to outstanding research, world-class education for future leaders and to future-proofing New Zealand’s food industries.