Prof Riëtte de Kock awarded prestigious international award

Posted on September 08, 2023

Prof Riëtte de Kock, a renowned sensory scientist from the Department of Consumer and Food Sciences, was recently awarded the Sensory and Consumer Sciences Achievement Award 2023 by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

“I am very grateful for the recognition, and it motivates me to continue my research journey.  It was fantastic to attend the award ceremony in Chicago, USA, and experience the IFT annual event and expo. The event, called IFT FIRST (Food Improved by Research, Science, and Technology), was attended by a few thousand delegates and showcased cutting-edge research and technology solutions,” she said on being asked how she feels about winning such a high-profile award.

She continued, “The award is meaningful to me as it makes our research at UP visible to a wider international audience and provides more opportunities for capacity building and research collaboration. I celebrate the award with all the students and research collaborators I have enjoyed working with.  I plan to use the award to continue building the Africa Network for Sensory Evaluation Research (ANSWER).”

Prof De Kock’s current research focuses on optimising the sensory properties of foods that contribute to the nutrition status and well-being of people in sub-Saharan Africa. An example is the development of a decision tree-approach based on overall eating quality scores for screening sweet potato varieties as part of Uganda's sweet potato breeding programme. The research is part of the PhD of Mariam Nakitto. Projects to optimise the shelf life of nutritionally beneficial whole grain staple foods and acceptance of whole grain foods, in general, are also underway. 

With PhD student Nomzamo Magano, a new and updated instrument was developed to measure factors that drive consumer food choices. The tool is handy as it incorporates insights from urban people of varying socio-economic status. Prof De Kock is investigating the interest in and potential of novel modern food products developed using African crops like sorghum, cowpea, and Bambara groundnut in various African and European countries as part of the InnoFoodAfrica project.   All the research supports food product development to meet the demands of a growing, more urbanised African population and explore Africa’s bio-diverse food sources to make food products nutritionally adequate but also appealing, and appetising.

She founded and is the chair of the Africa Network for Sensory Evaluation Research (ANSWER) and a past research chair of the European Sensory Network.  She became president of the South African Association for Food Science and Technology (SAAFoST) at the association's biennial congress at the end of August. In 2017, she received the Department of Science and Technology award as a Distinguished Woman Scientist recognised for outstanding contributions to research and innovation leading to socio-economic impact and woman empowerment.


- Author Martie Meyer

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