• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Finally, you can manage your Google Docs, uploads, and email attachments (plus Dropbox and Slack files) in one convenient place. Claim a free account, and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) can automatically organize your content for you.


Taste and smell experts

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 11 months ago

Here is my original request email:


Hi all,


I work at Northwestern, helping to run a new 1-year grad program in Engineering Design and Innovation.


For one of our design classes next quarter, we are hoping to do a project where the students design an experience to engage the senses.  We are looking for guest lecturers to come talk about designing for each of the senses, and I'm looking to find an "expert" in the realm of taste and/or smell. 


If you can think of anyone who could be considered an expert on designing taste/smell experiences for products, retail environments, etc. please let me know--or you can forward this message to them and ask them to contact me.


Thanks!  And, if anyone is interested in learning more about our new program, please feel free to ask me or visit or website: http://www.idea.northwestern.edu/edi/index.html


Kim Hoffmann

MS PD '02



And here are the many responses I got back.  Thanks for all of your help, everyone!



I TA'ed with Dave Beach in Good Products/Bad Products for 2 years and

we touch on these topics quite a bit. While we didn't have experts,

he used the book "A Natural History of the Senses" by Diane Ackerman.

I find her writing annoying but she does explore the topics.

Last year the students brought this book to our attention as well:


Alison King '06



Speck has built a number of scent delivery devices for MicroScent over the years and we are still working with them. Jerry Bertrand at Microscent is very knowledgeable about scent and is also a very helpful chap. 





David Law





I have a great deal of experience in flavor and fragrance chemistry, the foundation of the chemical senses, and its presence and impact throughout our lives.  I have been involved in the use of flavor and fragrance for branding, for the enhancement of retail products and the retail spaces in which they are sold, and for promoting both our own sense of well-being and healthier lifestyle selections. 
Your program sounds interesting and I would be glad to speak with you and/or your colleagues at any time. 
Best regards,
Jerry Bertrand
MicroScent LLC
(650) 327-1538




I don't know if you saw the food issue of Ambidextrous, seems like you could get some good folks from there.

- Krista Donaldson



There was a book out a few years ago... The History of Smell, or something like that.  Maybe the Author references smell experts, or can lead you to them...  OK...I googled it for you:  Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell  by Constan Classen

Looks like it's more about the Cultural significance of Small, which also might be interesting take on the subject...




I am presently global marketing manager in the Creative Marketing department of the Flavor division of a company called Firmenich, one of the top 3 Flavor & Fragrance houses in the world. My role is to develop inspiration tools to stimulate creativity and thus help develop effective innovation.

I observe and build inspiration tools on macro-trends (Trenz® database), lifestyles (e.g. Teenagers tomorrow), the 5 senses (5 5EN5E5) and emotional drivers (e.g. understanding Flavors&Emotions ) in order to help our internal teams and clients develop tomorrows winning flavors or food products.


We also created a private ‘exhibit’ called Sensorium. It’s a punctual and temporary private exhibit that brings life to tomorrow’s consumer macro-trends and illustrates the multiple innovation possibilities their effective interpretation offers. It’s a polysensorial exhibit that materializes chosen macro-trends into diverse environments in which each visitor will not only live the trends, and thus better understand them, but will also taste and smell original product concepts directly inspired by them.

The objective is to show how our clients can use this approach as a springboard for future innovation and generation of new business ideas in partnership with Firmenich. The next Sensorium will open in our Princeton, NJ offices by the end of October.


I have an expertise in flavors but I can also speak about fragrances. Although markets and products are different, the ‘human consumer’ approach is the same, only the interpretation varies. I work on a daily basis with my fragrance counterparts globally. The tools we create and use for taste serve also to inspire the designing of smells, the same way we use fragrance inspiration for taste. The boundary between the 2 worlds has never been so thin.


There is no doubt that the 5 senses and the emotional evolution of the ‘human consumers’ (or simply human beings) are interrelated and endless sources of inspiration. The best Innovations will come from their effective interpretation. As a Flavor and Fragrance House, it is very important for us to understand these topics, which explains why we position ourselves as the most creative and innovative partner on the market today.


Thank you,


Jerome Linder




I would recommend Dr. Ann Noble at UC Davis is a sensory expert and flavor chemist in the viticulture and enology department. While she works with wine, she could speak to taste and aroma for food in general. She is famous for her wine aroma wheel and is considered an expert in the field of sensory science. We are considering having her in to teach a short course for us and the design community on tasting.

Ann C. Noble

Professor and Sensory Scientist/Flavor Chemist, Emerita

Retired November 25, 2002

Dr. Noble is busy giving short courses in the US and internationally, participating at national and international meetings in the areas of Wine, Sensory Science or Sensometrics and being a wine judge. She says she is working up the energy to write a book on Wine Sensory evaluation.

She is still involved with the Wine Aroma Wheel , selling tee-shirts and wine aroma wheels www.winearomawheel.com and giving seminars on wine tasting.

Since retirement, she has hiked or backpacked in Australia, California and New Zealand and looks forward to hiking in the mountains and gorge scrambling in summer and cross-country skiing in winter.



I have a smell contact. She's called Mandy Aftel and she's based in Berkeley. She runs a company called Aftelier Parfum. She also created a 'chefs essence kit' of essential oils for chefs to use in cooking.  http://www.aftelier.com/about.html




One more thought on this... The way we handled the 'expert' part of

this was to bring in designers or senior biz folks who worked in

industries where these attributes are key to a product's success. one

example was Eric Ryan, a founder of Method home products.

Good luck,




Some years back the life sciences division at NASA Ames was performing odor testing with the Monell Institute.


I'll get back to you if I can find the name of person our office worked with.

Kim Hines,

MS PD '07 




Perhaps you’ve seen the following article…




Dave Franchino | president | 608-663-1527

5301 Buttonwood Dr. | Madison, WI 53718


Probing the Psyche of Shoppers; In Development of New Products, Companies Attempt to Determine The 'Unmet Needs' of Consumers Deborah Ball, Sarah Ellison and Janet Adamy.

Wall Street Journal. New York, N.Y.: Oct 29, 2004. pg. A.6



THREE YEARS AGO, Procter & Gamble Co. set out to build a better air freshener.


P&G researchers learned some useful things when they asked people in focus groups to describe their "desired scent experience." Many people, after about half an hour, seem to adjust to a scent and can't smell it anymore. Most air-freshener scents don't spread evenly across a room. People complained that many scents smell artificial.


P&G took it all in and came back with a solution: a scent "player," that looks like a compact-disc player and plays one of five alternating scents every 30 minutes. The gadget, named Febreze Scentstories and priced at $34.99, has a tiny fan inside that circulates the scent throughout the room. With it, P&G sells five different discs, each $5.99 and holding a variety of scents with trademarked names such as "Relaxing in the Hammock" and "Wandering Barefoot on the Shore."


"Nobody could have articulated Scentstories," says Steve McGowan, a product-development manager for Febreze, "but if you really watch the consumer, they'll tell you what they wish. "


Ingenuity has taken an extreme turn in the high-stakes world of product development. Desperate to increase sales and market share, companies are digging deeper into shoppers' homes and habits to discover "unmet needs" and then design new products to meet them. Last year, marketers launched a dizzying 34,000 new foods, drinks and beauty products -- representing more unmet needs than most people ever guessed they had.


The strategy is turning out to be expensive, with the costs of marketing and promoting a new product often topping $50 million. In September, a sharp rise in marketing spending led Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Unilever Group to slash their 2004 earnings forecasts -- but also to resolve to continue spending heavily on marketing to help spur sales. In July, Kraft Foods Inc. reported a sharp decline in its quarterly earnings and lowered its full-year forecast amid increased marketing spending.


Even Procter & Gamble, which has led the charge into new products, is feeling the weight of additional costs. Wednesday P&G reported that its operating margins were being squeezed by increased spending on marketing.


Marketers of everything from pet food to soft drinks feel pressure to innovate, for a variety of reasons. Powerful retailers such as Wal- Mart Stores Inc. are quicker than ever to pull a lagging product off their shelves, sometimes substituting their own private-label version. Stores also are apt to cut prices of branded items unless shoppers find something new or exciting in them. Marketers must work harder than ever to stand out in superstores that in many cases stock as many as 100,000 different items.


General Mills Inc. rolled out 92 new products this past summer -- including Betty Crocker pourable cake frosting and square-bottomed Old El Paso taco shells -- for an increase of more than 30% from the 70 new products launched the previous summer. "Limited-edition" products match shoppers' short attention spans: PepsiCo Inc. launched a grape- flavored Mountain Dew, called Mountain Dew Pitch Black, last month just for Halloween and plans to follow with a spicy version of Pepsi for Christmas.


When P&G last monthsept launched a version of Tide laundry detergent with Downy fabric softener, the company said it had "identified an unmet need among a subset of women who want clean and soft laundry, but for various reasons are either unwilling to add liquid fabric softener or are inconsistently adding it because they simply forget."


New products face tough odds. The average American family turns to the same 150 items for as much as 85% of its household needs, says Jack Trout, president of marketing firm Trout & Partners Ltd. Only about 2% of new brands and brand extensions hit $100 million in first- year sales, considered the threshold for success, according to Information Resources Inc.


Sales of C2, Coca-Cola Co.'s reduced-calorie, reduced-carbohydrate cola and the company's biggest product introduction since Diet Coke, already have started to fall, just months after the product's introduction. About 25% of so-called line extensions produce no incremental sales, says Valerie Skala Walker, an analyst at Information Resources.


"Consumers are more elusive and harder to reach," says Jim Stengel, head of marketing for P&G. "We are trying to bring true category- building innovations . . . not just another flavor of ice cream." Such an effort requires what salesmen call a "missionary sale," in which the seller first must teach customers what their unmet need is before offering to fill it.


There is no need too small for new products to address. Among the new products P&G has successfully sent out to market are Swiffer Sweep+Vac, the latest iteration in its successful Swiffer line of dust mops and disposable cloths. P&G introduced the Sweep+Vac, a small, battery-operated vacuum cleaner with a Swiffer mop head attached, during the summer, after focus-group participants said they get on their hands and knees to wipe up the small pile of dirt left on the floor after mopping with a dry Swiffer cloth. "We knew that was a compensating behavior that consumers wouldn't want to do," says Joe Miramonte, a product-development manager for the Swiffer line.


P&G appears to have hit the jackpot with an unmet need it discovered among those consumers who wash their own cars. They told P&G that half of the time they devoted to washing the car was actually spent drying the car, so that water spots won't form. For these consumers, P&G designed Mr. Clean AutoDry Carwash, a sponge along with a nozzle and a liquid-soap cartridge that attaches to a garden hose. A filter in the nozzle removes the minerals in water that cause the spots.


Retailers liked the kit's $24.99 price tag. And the price of refills -- $6.99 -- beats the pennies that consumers might spend on soap to give their car an old-fashioned wash. The AutoDry product is on track to generate more than $100 million in first-year sales, P&G says.Imitators nip at the heels of successful new products. Pfizer Inc. blazed a new trail in packaged products in 2001 with Listerine PocketPaks. The thin, edible, plastic-like mouthwash strips quickly caught on with teens and raked in $175 million in first-year sales. Today, supermarket checkout aisles are brimming with all kinds of strips, from Novartis AG's Theraflu Thin Strips, to Momentus Solutions' Healthy Moments Arthur watermelon-flavored vitamin strips for kids -- and even Hartz mint-flavored breath strips for dogs. In the first nine months of this year, 128 different strip products were launched, up fivefold from 2002, according to Productscan Online.


Such innovations rarely stay hot for long, though, Last week, Wm Wrigley Jr. Co. said it would close the Phoenix plant where its strips are made because of waning U.S. demand.





If you are having trouble finding commercial development of smell experiences, try science museums. While it can be a tough thing to do in a public environment [maintenance, issues with source material for certain smells], it has been done.

Typically, they use a cotton ball with atomizer or an aquarium pump to access the smell source.

Two exhibit firms have recently mentioned that they are in the process of developing a "Smell Bar" type exhibits:


http:// www.splitrockstudios.com

These folks mentioned they have a smell exhibit up in Edmonton. You can always contact them and ask for info. Generally speaking, science museums are happy to share:





I recall International Flavors and Fragrances is in Cincinnati.

And looked them up to see if they might have Chicago offices.

Found that they'd been purchased by Givaudan, making that company

the largest in that industry, globally.

They seem to have an Itasca office. Perhaps someone there might help or recommend an expert?

Givaudan - Quest International Flavors and Fragrances Inc.

(Flavours sales & production)

880 West Thorndale Avenue

Itasca, IL 60143

Tel: +1 630 7738484

Christine Kurjan





Here is a great article from the New Yorker about innovation in the

scent industry. May not be right on target for your work, but

interesting in any event.







Jonathan Antonio Edelman

Center for Design Research

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Stanford University





Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.