ECRO2023 symposium to honour Prof. E.P. Köster

The symposium “Lost in translation: The journey from fundamental science to product application” was dedicated to Professor Ep Köster who passed away in 2022 at the age of 91. Ep was professor of Fundamental and Applied Research of the Chemical Senses at Utrecht University and co-founder of ECRO. The first ECRO conference, co-organized by Ep, took place in Zeist, the Netherlands, in 1970 and we see Ep in the middle of this picture, taken at that conference.

The focus of the 2023 symposium was on Applied Sensory Science a discipline where Ep paved the way. Ep worked with industry, central and local government, small enterprises, patient organizations and individuals in an effort to help resolve real-life challenges by applying scientific insights in smart and unprecedented ways. Many of these applications did not get captured in the published literature but ended up in Dutch-language reports. However, because Ep’s lectures would be dotted with many examples taken from his rich experience, we would still get a taste of his inventive approaches and solutions. The symposium was built around some of Ep’s famous quotes.

  • Garmt Dijksterhuis explained that The problem with asking a consumer a question is that they’ll give you an answer…” refers to the fact that consumers cannot reflect on the reasons why they like a product as they do not have conscious access to the many features that contribute to product liking, so asking them the “why…” question will lead to a dubious response.
  • Veronica Galindo-Cuspinera explained why “Good research is expensive, but bad research is even more expensive”. Modelling flavour experiences onto product properties is an important yet expensive tool to recreate great flavour formulations that mimic the real cooking flavour sensation. However, flavour predictions not following this careful design process may lead to product failures after market launch, which can cost a great deal more than the R&D investment to do it right.
  • Doris Schicker and Monique Smeets presented research in illustration of Ep’s quote that Fundamental research is difficult, but applied research is even more difficult”, referring to successes as well as failures of trying to make mood-enhancing ingredients work when added to fragranced personal and home care products.
  • Laura Speed In her presentation “Odor pleasantness and edibility underlie odor crossmodal associations” addressed the importance of context in product evaluation – one of Ep’s favourite topics! – showing that the importance of other-modality (e.g tactile from texture , sound) information is not the same for edible versus inedible odors, and how difficult it is to express odor in language.

The symposium was organized by Veronica Galindo -Cuspinera (DSM -Firmenich) and Monique Smeets (Utrecht University – Unilever R&D)

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