Dr Chow-Ming Lee, otherwise known as ‘Dr Yummy’ is usually found where the flavour is. In June 2019, he was found at Hort Connections in Melbourne. As Bayer’s Consumer Sensory Lead, Chow-Ming works to understand consumer taste preferences and how science can make fruits and vegetables more delicious.
Interested to learn more about Chow-Ming’s work? Click here and listen to him talking all things flavour on Foodie Tuesday, courtesy of ABC Radio.
Chow-Ming says we use our senses to judge if a fruit or vegetable tastes good and if we want more of it. He believes if we can offer produce that is inherently delicious, consumers are more likely to purchase fruits and vegetables as their preferred choice in snacking, which will contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
Chow-Ming’s research is important because it enables suppliers of fruit and vegetable varieties to offer the whole supply chain a better consumer experience. This in turn will increase consumption velocity (the rate at which produce moves through supply chain) and the amount of produce consumed. All of this together will help to reduce food waste.
In Dr Yummy’s household, like many others fruit and vegetables that taste good are gone in no time. Fruit that doesn’t taste good lingers around in the crisper or in the fruit bowl, until it is shrivelled and wrinkly. Ultimately, it will end up in the bin. It’s the same thing occurring on the macro level.
Of course, when Chow-Ming says something ‘tastes good’ we need to understand the elements behind that determination. The key sensory modalities of flavour, aroma, texture and appearance factor into our taste experience.
In his research, he draws on the understanding of more than 100 consumers per study when conducting consumer taste tests. We all have our personal preferences, so it takes a lot of consumers to make a call to determine whether a product tastes good or not. Chow-Ming is focussed on improving flavour and the consumer experience in certain categories of produce.
“I am working on consumer tests around the world – including Australia – to understand flavour in categories such as large tomatoes, melons and watermelons,” he says.
Working with colleagues in breeding, growers and retailers, Chow-Ming is hopeful we can delight consumers once again in these categories.
“It is an exciting time to be a consumer of fruits and vegetables!” he says.