Understanding product perception: State-of-the-art, challenges and future

The organization of the IV edition of the AEPAS Congress became a challenge with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in our lives. It was expected to be held in 2021, but it had to be postponed up to two times, due to responsibility and coherence with the complicated socio-sanitary situation generated by this pandemic. However, and despite this context, this event has managed to bring together more than 120 participants from several countries (mainly from Spain, but also from the United Kingdom, Peru or France), between June 6th and 8th of this year at the emblematic venue of RiojaForum. Elena Romero from the Agri-Food Technology Center, CTIC-CITA, María-Pilar Sáenz Navajas and Purificación Fernández Zurbano from the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (CSIC-UR-GR) chaired the IV Congress of the Spanish Association of Professionals of Sensory and consumer Sciences.

The opening ceremony of the Congress was attended together with Mrs. Amparo Tárrega, President of AEPAS, Mr. Clemente Bea, Director of CTIC CITA, Mr. José Miguel Martínez Zapater, Director of the ICVV and Mrs. Mª Jesús Miñana, Director of Agriculture and Livestock, Ms. Nathalie Beaucourt, General Director of Reindustrialization, Innovation and Internationalization, both from La Rioja Government as well as Mr. Eduardo Fonseca, Vice-Dean for Research and Internationalization of University of La Rioja.

This edition has been presented as a discussion forum in which the latest advances, challenges and the future of research in the field of Sensory and Consumer Sciences have been addressed. Having as a more particular objective the understanding of product perception in the context of the most relevant challenges of the industry: globalization of markets, development of healthier foods, sustainability of the industry and construction of an industrial system in general, and agri-food in particular, connected to the consumer. The scientific program included four invited Plenary Lectures: 1st) Advances in the development of sensory techniques taught by Dr. Carolina Chaya (Professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid), 2nd) Understanding consumer experience. Perception and expectations given by Dr. Heber Rodrigues (Researcher at the United Kingdom Centre for Excellence in Wine Research at Plumpton College), 3rd) Chemical-sensory perception. Sensory signals in complex systems by Dr. Laura López-Mascaraque, (President of the Spanish Olfactory Network and Researcher at the Cajal-CSIC Institute) and 4th) Promoting a healthy diet. Development of new products. Consumer response by Sergio José Ramos López, (Director of R + D + i of Naturuel S.L. of the TERVALIS group). Each of these conferences gave way to the corresponding sessions in which 20 oral and 18 flash communications together with 51 in poster format were presented. AEPAS awarded the two best communications among students: Ángel Manuel Aragón Capone from the University of Zaragoza and Luis Isac Torrente from the Center for Gastronomic Innovation of the Community of Madrid.

Prior to the start of the Congress, two non-simultaneous workshops took place. The first consisting of a Demo of SENSESBIT, which is an agile software for tasting sessions, sponsored by Tastelab and the second dealt with Sensory Quality Control in the field of food product in which about 35 people attended.

In addition to the scientific program, the participants were able to enjoy a pleasant social program, which began with the General Assembly of the association, followed by a cocktail to celebrate its tenth anniversary in which AEPAS members received a copy of the book entitled SENSORY ANALYSIS of food and consumer response published by AEPAS (Acribia, 2022). Among other issues, the association agreed that the V Congress of AEPAS, will be held in Girona in 2023.

Among the activities that complemented the scientific program include a chorizo tasting sponsored by the IGP Chorizo Riojano, a tasting of Pan Sobado de La Rioja courtesy of Horno Arguiñano, as well as 2 oils and 2 wines from the Finca de la Grajera provided by the Government of La Rioja. Then there was a visit to the Institutional Winery of La Grajera and a gala dinner was enjoyed in an emblematic Rioja winery.

The Organizing Committee is very grateful to both the participants and the companies and institutions that have collaborated so that the IV AEPAS Congress, which we could call the congress of the return to normality, has taken place.