FEAST Consumer

Food Experience and Sensory Testing (Feast) laboratory

The Food Experience and Sensory Testing (Feast) laboratory is a hub for sensory and consumer research, training and consultancy.

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.

Research, collaborate and learn

Learn how you can collaborate with Feast to conduct consumer sensory science research, consultancy, or upskill with our training courses.

Our facilities

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!

Feast hololens

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.

Feast sensory booth

Sensory booths

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.

Laboratory kitchen

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.

FEAST focus group at work

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.

Introduction to Sensory Evaluation

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.

Evaluating Consumer Response

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.

Quality Assurance & Control

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 feast@massey.ac.nz.

Who we are

The Feast team, including staff and postgraduates

The Food Experience and Sensory Testing (Feast) laboratory was established 22 June 2018.

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, and two technicians.

Feast researchers

Meet our team of food, sensory and consumer science researchers.

Professor Joanne Hort

Professor Joanne Hort

Director of Food Experience and Sensory Testing Laboratory (Feast)
Dr Amanda Dupas de Matos

Dr Amanda Dupas de Matos

PhD, Sommelier
Senior Research officer
 Simone Poggesi

Simone Poggesi

Master's Degree in Viticulture, Oenology, and Wine Market
Research Officer
Dr Ao Chen

Dr Ao Chen

Research Officer

Feast research

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.

Mixed reality

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.​

FFC Logo

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.

NZ3M logo

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.

Fermented Foods research project

Cross-cultural research​

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 research project

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.​
sensory perception

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

Our team would not be complete without our research technicians.

 Rosie Linklater

Rosie Linklater

Sensory Technician
 Robyn Maggs

Robyn Maggs

Research Technician

Māori and Te Tiriti engagement

Feast promotes an inclusive culture. Māori are underrepresented in STEM and under-characterised in food preference studies – Feast is committed to:

  • upholding Te Tiriti principles
  • engaging Māori participation in our studies
  • providing opportunities for Māori researchers to participate in our science
  • engaging with Māori food and beverage entities to co-design research relevant to Māori
  • maintaining strong relationships with local Māori community groups.

We are working with Michael Smith (Ngati Kahungunu/Ngai Tuhoe/Whakatōhea/Nga Puhi) (Kaitautoko Māori, Massey) to improve our understanding of kawa and tikanga for conducting our research studies, for example how to Karakia food samples before presentation to participants, integrate te reo Māori into our daily mahi, and show respect for the head (taonga) in our research, especially when using digital head mounted displays or facial sensors.

Pūhoro student internships

Every year, we offer our Pūhoro internship in partnership with Future Foods Catalyst, the Riddet Institute, and Wakatū Incorporation. Visit our blog to learn more about our Pūhoro interns’ studies.

Join the Pūhoro STEM Academy

Climbing the ladder (an internship experience)

This study focused on unwrapping consumer perceptions of Māori messaging in both New Zealand and Singapore.

Māori value propositions on food packaging

How do businesses communicate their Māori culture in their food products through marketing? We used content analysis to categorise the messages.

Seaweed, dumplings & spring rolls: all part of the menu for a Pūhoro internship

Developing prototypes for ‘future foods’, using edible red seaweed as an ingredient.

Previous projects also include research into perception of kawa kawa as a beverage ingredient (through the Riddet Institute), grape growers and the Māori value proposition.

Māori plant-based foods for a Clean Green Aotearoa

Māori scholar, Summer Wright, is working with a number of Māori food and beverage entities in New Zealand. She is researching how Māori provenance could deepen food provenance, particularly when it comes to plant-based foods.

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.

Answer Key

When developing consumer products, often the easiest way to decide which path to take is to ask consumers what they think. Put a small selection of targeted questions to your consumers to get the answers to help create great things.



Our approach

We’ll present up to 12 survey questions to your consumers to expedite your progress.

Your gain

Answers, in an easy-to-follow presentation, to any 12 questions.

Concept Champion

When you have a lot of ideas, picking the right one for your product may pose a challenge. Put all your great ideas in front of consumers to see which ideas come out on top.



Our approach

We’ll present your ideas to consumers through our survey process to measure idea ranking, purchase intent, purchase frequency and fit to brand.

Your gain

A recommendation for ideas you can move confidently forward.

Product Boost

Give your concept, product and/or packaging a boost. Find out how your product can please the widest range of consumers.



Our approach

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.

Your gain

  • Consumer opinion trends of your product category, concept, product and/or packaging
  • Recommendations for improvement.

Flash Prototype

Flash Prototype can push your product into a more acceptable space…fast. Get real-time feedback to help you optimise your design.



Our approach

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.

Your gain

Fast, real-time feedback to help you design an optimised product – as directed by your consumers.

Sensory Scope

Flavours and textures in foods can be tricky to put into words – this is our speciality! When you need the right words to describe flavours and textures, Sensory Scope can do just that.



Our approach

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.

Your gain

  • Vocabulary used to describe flavours and textures as well as key flavours and textures that differentiate products.
  • A visual map of relative product placement.

Consumer Compass

Consumer Compass uses consumers as a way of guiding product development and provides indisputable evidence for how your product ranks against other products.



Our approach

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.

Your gain

  • Product performance ranking for up to four products.
  • Diagnostics for reformulation.
  • Open-ended likes and dislikes and purchase intent.

Subtle Switch

Subtle Switch can confirm if swapping out an ingredient or process makes a noticeable difference to your consumers.



Our approach

Consumers compare your new product against a gold standard product to determine if changes to your ingredients or process make a noticeable difference.

Your gain

How an ingredient or process change will impact your product.

Master Blueprint

Master Blueprint is the ultimate road map to developing a new product or renovating a tired one. This is the place to start if you have limited information about your competitors and want your product to be on top.



Our approach

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.

Your gain

  • Clear targets for efficient product development.
  • Confidence in your way forward.

Life Span

Ensuring a product is as delicious at the end of its shelf life as when first made is critical to product quality. Life Span can help set an appropriate shelf life for your product so it is exactly as intended throughout its life.



Our approach

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.

Your gain

A shelf life you can be confident in and provides consumers with a similar experience throughout your product’s life span.

On the Dot

Encounters with consumer products are dynamic. On the Dot measures product characteristics over time to provide delicious product descriptions and identify unique selling points.



Our approach

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.

Your gain

Insight into the sensory journey experienced overtime to pull out unique product characteristics and descriptions.

Double Check

Double Check offers a final check to make sure a product performs as well as you hope when consumers use it their way.



Our approach

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.

Your gain

  • 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.
Consumer panellist in the Feast lab

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 j.larking@massey.ac.nz

Ever wondered how your senses work?

Watch Professor Joanne Hort's inaugural lecture – It's all a matter of taste

Contact us

Professor Joanne Hort

Professor Joanne Hort

Director of Food Experience and Sensory Testing Laboratory (Feast)
School of Food and Advanced Technology
Manawatū campus

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.

 Jen Larking

Jen Larking

Feast Technical Administrator
School of Food and Advanced Technology
College of Sciences
Manawatū campus

Who we're working with

Fonterra logo


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.

Learn more

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)


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.

Learn more

Zespri International Limited

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.

Learn more

Continued CoRE funding for the Riddet Institute - image1

Riddet Institute

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.

Learn more

​​​​​​Food Experience and Sensory Testing laboratory


Orchard Road

Massey University

Palmerston North 4442