Sensory testing (or sensory profiling as it’s often referred to) involves the objective evaluation of food (and beverage) products based on the five senses. Rather than using members of the public, sensory food testing required trained panellists who evaluate products based on sensory factors such as smell and taste.
So what does sensory food testing involve, and why is it a critical element of successful product development?
As mentioned, food products are submitted to a panel of experts who each has above average acuity in detecting elements such as flavour profiles, scents, textures, and tactile features. Those observations are then collated and used to develop a sensory “profile” of the product. You can use this objective profile to compare and contrast with industry-leading products to understand where objective observers notice the key differences.
Together with consumer taste testing, you can use these data points to craft gold-standard products that are objectively better than the current market leader, both in the eyes of scientifically-trained panellists and members of the public. These findings will help sway buyers of major retailers that your new or revamped product is worth stocking.
Five primary senses make up the profile of a food product. They are as follows:
The gustatory sense is better known as the taste sense and works via taste receptors in the tongue. The sensory profilers will distinguish tastes and flavours such as sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.
The olfactory sense is better known as the sense of smell. Interestingly, the ability of this sense declines with age and is influenced by other factors such as gender and environment. That’s why we take extra care in selecting panellists appropriate to the specific task and product.
How food products are perceived visually plays an essential role in customer acceptance and, therefore, this sense is a vital element of the evaluation process. We require panellists with an exceptionally high degree of visual acuity to identify very subtle differences between a range of products’ shape, size, and structure.
The auditory sense is not as critical as the other senses in the development of food products. However, sound plays a vital role in the acceptance of related features such as the packaging of a food product.
How a product feels via our skin receptors is vital to the food development process. The characteristic properties of texture, consistency, and temperature can be picked up via this sense and essential to both the product itself and the packaging.
In short, a sensory evaluation of a product provides research and development teams with scientific, objective information regarding the sensory properties of a specific product.
At WSS, we have over three decades of experience in helping leading international and domestic brands carry out scientific and consumer research. Our sensory testing capabilities are second to none, will highly-skilled panellists able to detect even the subtlest changes to a product’s sensory profile.
Our track record speaks for itself, and you can trust our high-quality research to provide the information your brand needs to improve existing products and launch exciting new lines.