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Sensory Analysis: Myths In the Marketplace

Contrary to popular thinking, there is a lot more to sensory analysis than just science. Even though sensory evaluation is a scientific discipline that analyzes and measures human responses to the composition of food and beverages, there are many factors involved in measuring consumer responses. Sensory evaluation can be used to compare similarities or differences in a range of products. Maybe you want to analyze food samples for improvements or gauge responses (acceptable or not acceptable) with your target consumer base. Are you exploring the specific characteristics of an ingredient or checking whether a final product meets its original specifications? In all cases, objective and subjective feedback enables manufacturers to make informed decisions.

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Sensory evaluation has had a long and active relationship within the food and beverage industries. Most of the earliest work on methods of sensory evaluation was supported wholeheartedly by the industry. The best companies came to appreciate the relationship between a product’s sensory characteristics and its market success. For a certainty, sensory professionals have made considerable strides in achieving acceptance within the food and beverage industry, but it didn’t happen overnight. A variety of misconceptions and myths about sensory evaluation had to be challenged. For example, many companies had to fight the urge of relying on their internal product development teams stating what to perceive, what to call the perceptions, and what the consumer would like, without any sensory testing. With increased acceptance, sensory professionals were able to participate in the product decision-making process, as well as provide procedures for marketing and quality oriented testing. Some so-called “experts” in the field challenged sensory analysis early on, but results have countered that thinking over time. Sadly, there are still some who feel that decisions about products can be made in a vacuum. Some will take incredible risks in product and research development rather than go through the process of a simple test. Why? It is hard to say exactly, but we do know that at the center of many great products are creative minds that are passionate about their products. There is nothing wrong with passion. In fact, sensory analysis often fuses passion with reality. Sensory analysis doesn’t stifle creativity, but rather provides a creative platform that has a solid foundation.

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The idea of people testing products may seem simple enough, but there are numerous ways by which one goes about deciding who in the population will participate, how they will be tested, and what kinds of questions will be asked. Human sensory behavior is far more complex than what some might like to believe. Any population will exhibit a wide range of sensitivities and preferences. Sensory analysis really is a people science. The people are the ones that obtain the information about the products. With that product information in hand, critical business decisions can be made and these decisions often have a major economic impact.

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This article is free information from Contract Testing Inc., an established leader in sensory product research and consumer product research for the food, beverage, and (QSR) quick service restaurant industries throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more about the complete scope of product research services, please call 1-905-456-0783 or visit us onlineContractTesting.com.