Sensory Analysis

You mean, taste testing?

You likely have had your friends and family taste your product to give you feedback, which is a fantastic start. However, you might want to take a slightly more scientific approach to give you a more well-rounded picture of your product. Here are some ways to approach that.

What is Sensory Analysis?

Sensory analysis is a scientific approach to measuring the characteristics of food. It qualifies and quantifies attributes such as taste, texture, aroma, appearance, mouthfeel, and the overall impression a food or beverage product gives a consumer. This gives a more comprehensive understanding of how your target audience perceives your product, and allows you to make more informed decisions during your development process.

Three Key Components of Sensory Analysis

  1. Descriptive Analysis: This method involves trained sensory panels that systematically evaluate and describe the sensory attributes of your products. These panels use a standardized vocabulary to communicate the specific qualities of taste, aroma, texture, and appearance, providing you with detailed insights into the nuances of your offerings.
  2. Generally used: during early stages of product development when you want a detailed understanding of the sensory profile of a product.

  3. Consumer Testing: Perhaps the most critical component, consumer testing involves gathering feedback directly from your target audience. This can be done through focus groups, surveys, or preference tests. Understanding consumer preferences is vital for tailoring your products to meet market demands and building a loyal customer base.
  4. Generally used: in later stages of product development, once you have a prototype or market-ready product.

  5. Discrimination Testing: Discrimination tests help identify any perceptible differences or similarities between products. These tests are crucial for ensuring consistency and quality control during the manufacturing process. Common discrimination tests include triangle tests, duo-trio tests, and the paired comparison method.
  6. Generally used: during production to ensure consistency throughout the manufacturing process.

DIY your Sensory Analysis

Product development companies offer sensory analysis packages and can help guide you through this process, but you can also do your own DIY version earlier on if you are taking a more hands-on approach. If you are doing that, here are some things to consider.

  1. Define Your Objectives: Clearly outline your goals and objectives for the sensory analysis. Note the characteristics that are important for you to consider in your product, and the ones you are looking to avoid. Make sure these are included in your analysis.
  2. Assemble a Panel: There are many ways go to the DIY route - you can use friends and family, but also consider reaching out to a local university. Some universities that offer food science will offer sensory panels using students, so your rate will be lower than if you were hiring a product development company. Either way, outline to the panel what you are looking for, and provide them samples to try.
  3. Conduct Consumer Tests: Once you have a product you’d consider “done,” gather a group of your target consumers. If you are selling your product at farmers markets, you could give out free samples in exchange for feedback, or if your target audience is mom’s with young kids, find a local mom’s group and offer see if they’re willing to give you a half hour to get feedback on your product.
    1. Note - you may also want to provide competitors samples, to see how your product ranks next to similar ones. This can occur during both descriptive analysis and consumer testing, depending on how you want to use that information. If used during descriptive analysis, you can see where your product ranks in terms of those specific traits. If used during consumer tests, you can gain insight into consumer preferences for your product vs competitors.
  4. Iterate and Improve: Based on the feedback received, make necessary adjustments to your products. Sensory analysis is an iterative process, and continuous improvement is key to staying competitive in the market.

Summary actions

Use descriptive analysis early in your development, then consumer testing once you have a final product. If needed, go back to the kitchen for another round of tweaking your product.

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