Rutgers Highlights Importance of Sensory Sciences and Innnovation

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At Rutgers’ recent Second Annual Flavor, Fragrance, and Perception Symposium (stay tuned for detailed coverage of the symposium in the November 2013 issue of P&F magazine), a team of the university’s faculty members presented their research and discoveries in aroma, taste, and sensory sciences and announced their commitment to form a new University Center for Sensory Sciences and Innovation in January.

The flavors and fragrances industry is a significant element of the state’s economy, with more than 125 companies in the sector, Rutgers noted. About 34,000 people in New Jersey, which is 1% of the workforce, are employed by those companies, according to a recent study by Rutgers analysts. These jobs pay an average of $88,000, far above the statewide average. The companies in this sector contribute over $4.2 billion in economic activity to the state.

“These data clearly illustrate that the flavor and fragrance manufacturing industry is an essential component of our state’s economy,” said Michael Van Wagner, executive director of the New Jersey Business Action Center. “And this point is further demonstrated by a cluster analysis for the region, conducted by the Rutgers team, which shows a three-fold higher concentration of companies in this space than nationally.”

Rutgers’ sensory sciences researchers, along with global leaders in the flavor and fragrance industry, have been building a public-private partnership over the past year that includes faculty from each of the university’s campuses: New Brunswick, Newark, Camden and the Rutgers Health Sciences Campus at Newark. At the recent symposium, the Rutgers team announced their commitment to form a new University Center for Sensory Sciences and Innovation in January. Church & Dwight, Givaudan, and Symrise, all with operations in New Jersey, will be among the first companies to become charter members.

Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, associate vice president for Public-Private Partnerships at Rutgers University, stated that “the proposed Center for Sensory Sciences and Innovation is an outstanding example of Rutgers’ commitment to creating partnerships that benefit industry, the university and New Jersey. The first charter members recognized early on the value of this center and its unique focus. Many other companies have expressed interest in joining the center as well. It will be a true win-win for all the partners involved.”

Among the Rutgers faculty members who gave presentations at the symposium was Beverly Tepper, professor of food science, director of the Sensory Evaluation Laboratory and co-founder of the new University Center for Sensory Sciences and Innovation.

“The new center promises to be a true universitywide initiative with the degree of industry involvement required to encourage bold and creative research that will make a real difference,” Tepper said. “We‘re very appreciative of the support provided by our three charter corporate sponsors, who recognized the necessity for innovation in their business.”

Jeannette Haviland-Jones, professor of psychology, director of the Human Emotions Laboratory and another of the center’s co-founders, said: “The flavors and fragrance industry is a major contributor to New Jersey’s economy, directly and indirectly. The center’s work is intended to help the industry continue to flourish and even grow in coming years.”

Jim Simon, professor of plant biology and pathology also is one of the key scientific leaders of this new center. He is director of the university’s program on New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products Program, working cooperatively with research groups around the world, nationally, and in New Jersey developing standardized botanical products for health and nutrition and searching for new natural aromas and flavors

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