scientists doing research in lab

Why Study Applied Sensory and Consumer Science?

Unleashing the power of sensory and consumer science

In the last two decades, there has been significant growth in the field of sensory science. Understanding a product’s sensory experience provides useful information for building and maintaining brand integrity in the eyes of the consumer.

How Sensory Science Works

Companies of all sizes rely on robust product research that strategically applies to their business needs. Researchers design sensory studies with smaller subsets of the population that are repeatable, reliable and valid, and project to the larger consumer population. Well-executed sensory and consumer research then guides companies in consistently delivering products that meet consumer expectations.

“Sensory science is a broad and complex field, with many strategic business applications. The methods taught and utilized in our field can be applied to nearly all types of products and services,” says Rebecca Bleibaum, president/chief of sensory intelligence at Dragonfly SCI, Inc.

From physical products—food and beverage, personal and home care, apparel and automotive care—to services—information, websites, instructions, graphics, concepts, apps or other stimulus—these can all be described, measured and improved using sensory and consumer science methods. 

As instructors in the Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program, Bleibaum and UC Davis Professor of Food Science and Technology Jean-Xavier Guinard’s goal is to help professionals, businesses and industries understand the strategic power of this applied science.

For nearly 20 years, companies have been sending professionals through the program to learn how to design custom product research that readily applies to their business needs. “Our program covers a wide gamut of how sensory science tools are used across a wide variety of businesses,” says Bleibaum. “I want students to understand the valuable role that they can play within an organization if they pursue a career in sensory science.”

Armed with the knowledge and connections gained in our program, students can confidently and intelligently tackle any sensory or consumer challenge in their company,” explains Guinard. “They can articulate the value of sensory evaluation, consumer testing and data analysis in the quality assurance and product innovation spaces.”

And companies agree.

“Sensory is one of our greatest competitive advantages in the market,” said Julia Tyrpin, senior sensory manager with Griffith Foods. “All Griffith sensory scientists are encouraged to complete this program. It reinforces fundamentals of sensory and consumer science and also practical business applications.”

At Mondelez International, Marcia Young, senior director of consumer science, relies on the certificate program to quickly provide members of her team with a foundation in sensory and consumer science. “This program gives them the fundamentals very quickly, orients them to the field and provides a formal education to go along with their applied research, development and quality skills,” says Young. “They have more confidence in supporting their clients, managing projects, drawing conclusions and making recommendations.”

Why study sensory and consumer science at UC Davis?

We are the industry-recognized leader in the education of sensory science professionals. Developed as a way to provide sensory science professionals with professional development and a platform for sharing knowledge, our certificate program is one of a kind. It offers convenient, online learning for professionals worldwide and gives them one-on-one access to industry experts and a forum for connecting with peers. We continually update our program to reflect current and innovative methods in the area of sensory science and consumer testing.

What You Will Learn

  • Physiological and psychological bases for sensory evaluation and consumer testing
  • Basic methods, theories, and approaches used in the execution of sensory evaluation and consumer testing research
  • Management of sensory evaluation and consumer testing resources, activities and their interaction with other business units
  • Exploratory research techniques and new trends
  • Current business applications
  • Learn from our conversational podcast series with global industry experts

“There are so many things you can’t get from reading a textbook,” says Lauren Woods Salazar, New Belgium Brewing’s wood cellar director and blender, who decided to complete the certificate program after she began developing New Belgium’s flavor panel. “The interaction with other students and the professors elevated all the things I thought I might know and brought to light the things I was missing. Every day I learned something that I could apply.”

“This program has given me the much-required self-confidence to pursue a successful career in the field,” said Taruna Sanghi, a senior scientist in the Consumer Science Department at Mondelez India Foods Pvt Ltd in Mumbai, India. “Professionally, I feel my capabilities as a consumer scientist are now seen as something gained, not just out of experience, but with a solid academic foundation as well.”

Designed for working professionals, the program’s comprehensive curriculum and real-world applications—distinct components of the certificate—are instrumental in helping professionals achieve their goals and increase their impact in the field.

Our newly revamped 16-unit program consists of four university-level courses and can be completed in less than 12 months. View a sample lesson.

Start harnessing the power of sensory and consumer science

Join our global community of sensory science professionals. We have graduates from more than 40 countries and across the United States, all using sensory science to create and improve products for consumers. Applications for this fully online program are accepted on a continuous basis. For consideration in the current cycle applications must be received by September 15.  

The Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program launched in 2002 and was developed by the late Howard Schutz, founder and first chair of the IFT Sensory Division.

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