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Scholarship search | PhD Fellowship - Evaluating the value of data analytics to understand consumer engagement with future plant-based proteins

PhD Fellowship - Evaluating the value of data analytics to understand consumer engagement with future plant-based proteins


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August 31 2021 to October 31 2021
Closes in 1 month

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$90,000 plus tuition fees | Three year duration | One position

Scholarship search | PhD Fellowship - Evaluating the value of data analytics to understand consumer engagement with future plant-based proteins

PhD Fellowship - Evaluating the value of data analytics to understand consumer engagement with future plant-based proteins

The PhD candidate will review and evaluate the opportunities available to consumer science using data analytics to understand consumer response to meat alternatives in comparison to traditional techniques in food-related consumer research. The project is funded by the Riddet Institute.

The 3-year scholarship includes an annual tax-free stipend of NZD$30,000 and tuition fees. The project is funded by the Riddet Institute. This project is a joint collaboration between the Food Experience and Sensory Testing (Feast) lab at Massey University in Palmerston North, and the Sensory and Consumer Science Team at Plant and Food Research (PFR) in Auckland under the joint supervision of Professor Joanne Hort (Feast) and Dr Sara Jaeger (PFR).

The research will be based in the Riddet Institute and Feast, located on the Massey Campus in Palmerston North but will also involve secondments to PFR in Auckland. The Riddet Institute is a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence hosted by Massey University and Feast is part of the College of Science at Massey University, which is where the student will be enrolled.

Additional Information

The PhD student’s duties will include:

  • Presenting a seminar and written report to gain confirmation into a PhD one year after starting.
  • Preparing for, and meeting regularly, with supervisors to discuss plans and results.
  • Presenting plans for research and experimental protocols to supervisors and collaborators for review prior to carrying out the work.
  • Travelling to and working with collaborators at Plant and Food research in Auckland.
  • Developing experimental plans, collecting and analysing consumer data.
  • Writing a PhD thesis, including an extensive literature review, 3-5 research chapters and a general discussion.
  • Submitting manuscripts to journals, including at least one research article, before the thesis is submitted.
  • Complying with Ethical and Health and Safety Policies at Massey University, and collaborator organisations, and having consideration for the safety of yourself and others in the workplace.
  • Ensuring legislative compliance (e.g., Department of Labour, HSNO, EPA, Animal Ethics) and appropriate data security.


The Food Experience and Sensory Testing (Feast) Lab was established in 2018 at Massey University by Professor Joanne Hort. It is a leading research and training centre in New Zealand for sensory and consumer science with a team of 20 postdoctoral researchers, students, technical staff and administrators. In 2021 it opened its new state-of-the art consumer and sensory science facilities which include a large digital immersive space; two focus group and training rooms with AV capability; research cubicles for measuring human physiological responses, conducting mixed reality experiments or one to one interviews; and a spacious set of ISO standard sensory booths. Feast has carried out research and training and collaborates with a range of organisations including the food industry (for example, Fonterra, Zespri, Synlait, Frucor Suntory and many smaller to medium enterprises), Crown Research Institutes and other Universities, including projects via its close ties with the Riddet Institute where Prof Hort is a Principal Investigator and several of the Feast team are based.

PFR – Sensory & Consumer Science Team

The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited (PFR) is a global leader in the research and development of new elite cultivars and food products. Our Sensory & Consumer Science capacity is integral to the direction of a wide range of national research projects and global partnerships. Understanding consumer behaviour allows companies to develop products that specifically appeal to the requirements of a target audience. We use new and existing methods to research consumer requirements for foods and beverages to support industry partners with the launch of new products and expansion in new marketplaces, as well as directing elite cultivar breeding programmes and development of new wine styles. We apply human senses using innovative and well-established sensory evaluation tests to define flavour, texture, appearance and taste. We also apply consumer science to understand an individual’s consumption behaviour and the ways in which variations in foods and beverages, consumption situation and a person’s mood affect decisions. The team is located in new purpose build state-of-art facilities at the PFR campus in Auckland.

Riddet Institute

The Riddet Institute is the pre-eminent centre in New Zealand for the science of food, nutrition and supporting disciplines, carrying out the fundamental and strategic research that will lead to tomorrow’s innovation in high margin food products and processes. The Riddet Institute acts as the leader and integrator for New Zealand food science, setting the standard for cross-organisation, cross-discipline collaboration and facilitating knowledge transfer to industry through strong networks and partnerships. It recruits and develops highly qualified scientists in food science and supporting disciplines increasing the capability and capacity to drive innovation in the food industry.

The Riddet Institute shows national leadership by raising awareness by the food industry and policy-makers of key global issues related to agri-food. It positively influences, not only the New Zealand food industry, but also the wider community’s economic and social well-being.

Massey University

Massey University is a Tiriti-led University with major campuses located in Palmerston North, Auckland (at Albany) and Wellington, and is New Zealand’s pre-eminent provider of distance education. With a comprehensive programme of teaching and research and specialisations in the areas of agri-food, innovation, creativity and design, and many strengths including New Zealand’s only faculty of Veterinary science, Massey has a reputation for its pragmatic approach, its commitment to research and community service, international outreach, respect for quality and its belief in creating capacity for scholarship to flourish. For more information about studying for a PhD at Massey see here.


The ideal candidate must have:

  • A First-Class Honours or Second-Class Honours (Division I), MSc degree (or equivalent) or BSc degree with Honours (or equivalent) in Data analytics or relevant discipline including Mathematics, Statistics or Bioinformatics.
  • Motivation and self-determination to complete a PhD within 3 years.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Programming skills including R and Python.
  • Ability to handle, organise and structure large volumes of files and data.
  • Ability to learn, work independently and collaboratively, adapt to change, and plan, organise and implement projects in a timely manner; and
  • Demonstrated high ethical standards, diligence, integrity, professionalism, politeness and courteousness, and be able to effectively work in a team and with human participants.

Applicants should also have a general interest in food and human behaviour. Experience, including internships or secondments to the food industry or health sector is advantageous but not essential.

The closing date for applications is 31st October 2021 with a start date of on or after Feb 1st 2022

Application checklist

Please include the following with your application:

  • a cover letter (1-2 pages), explaining your interest and why you think you are suited to the position
  • your CV (summarising education, employment, scientific outputs, names of 3 references)
  • copies of educational certificates and transcript of records