We, as consumers, use our five senses to evaluate whether or not we like a product. Hence, sensory analysis is fundamental in the development of new products.
It is used for a number of reasons; beneficial as it:
- Allows manufacturers to see what is favourable amongst consumers
- Makes it that developing products can be compared against those already in existence
- Improves future products
- Ensures that a product which will profitably sell can be developed
- Allows the evaluation of a product's sensory characteristics
- Outlines room for modifications or improvements
- Gather basic product information
It is essential that sensory testing takes place in controlled conditions, simply to allow for a fair test. Means to subsequently be taken include:
- Provide water or crackers to cleanse the palette between tastings; to ensure that flavours aren't influenced by those of the previous samples.
- Provide independent booths in quiet areas, to avoid disturbance or conference.
- Ensure that the area is free of alternative smells which may alter the sample's organoleptic properties.
- The use of a place where the lighting can be altered.
- Provide the testers with clear instructions, and charts to fill in.
- Serve small portions of each product sample within dishes of the same shape and colour, to prevent differentiating shapes or colours from influencing decisions.
- Use coding, as opposed to naming the samples - for the sake of ensuring blind testing.
Sensory analysis will typically take place at multiple stages throughout the design process. It will initially be carried out in the form of focus groups; as part of which existing products are discussed, and consumers suggest the qualities they look for in a successful product. Later on, sensory testing will take place upon newly developed products. The testers may be professional or else members of the public; and the testing itself can take place in specialist sensory analysis booths, private homes, or…