A sense of sustainability? – How sensory consumer science can contribute to sustainable development of the food sector

Elsevier, Trends in Food Science & Technology, Volume 90, August 2019, Pages 180-186
Jessica Ashcemann-Witzel, Gaston Ares, John Thogersen, and Erminio Monteleone


Humanity's current use of resources is not in line with the goal of sustainable development. Climate change impact scenarios appear worryingly pessimistic. The agricultural and food production accounts for a particularly high share of the impact, and this also holds for consumption of food. Transforming food consumption plays a crucial role in tackling the challenges, and sensory consumer science can contribute to this.

Scope and approach

This commentary examines what is required of the agricultural and food sector in order to sustainably transform, and outlines the current research streams in sensory consumer science from a sustainability perspective. Based on a comparison of the requirements and research, we suggest a categorization of the contributions that sensory consumer science can make to sustainable development.

Key findings and conclusions

Six necessary transformations to which sensory consumer science can make a contribution are derived and outlined: 1) promotion of a dietary shift towards more sustainable foods and diets, 2) increase of food diversity, 3) food waste reduction, 4) enhancement of the circularity of the food system, 5) heightening and prioritising food-related well-being, and 6) coping with the effects of climate change. So far, sensory consumer science studies have focused on foods regarded as sustainable (e.g. organic, sustainably claimed, insects and meat alternatives) as well as issues that contribute to sustainability (e.g. shelf-life, fruit and vegetable consumption, unfamiliar food). The conclusion for further future research is that designing sensory consumer science research to explicitly target the six required transformations can increase the discipline's contribution to sustainable development.