Product Optimisation is a powerful tool that allows us to understand what it is that consumers want from their products and therefore assist clients with developing their products and ultimately creating the ‘gold standard’ product.
Product Optimisation combines sensory profiling with consumer taste testing. Firstly, our trained sensory panel will measure key parameters of the products to allow the generation of product profiles. Consumer taste testing then shows us which products consumers prefer. Combining this information then allows us to understand WHY it is that consumers prefer the products that they do and therefore offer guidelines to our clients for developing the best possible tasting products, and therefore maximising sales.
Specific benefits of this type of research include:
A popcorn manufacturer wanted to ensure that they had the best products in the marketplace and subsequently ensure their market share while improving sales. They requested a complete product optimisation process to achieve this.
The specific objectives were –
Our approach was to conduct a sensory research project to develop a protocol for profiling popcorn products quantitatively in terms of the major sensory signals encountered during their consumption. Then the sensory profiles of 32 popcorn products were measured. To facilitate interpretation multivariate maps were constructed using Principal Component Analysis (PCA).
Next consumer acceptance testing was conducted with a range of the popcorn products that were sensory tested.
The sensory research and consumer acceptance results were then correlated and consumer acceptance of popcorn products highlighted in terms of sensory parameters
A panel of 17 people, selected on the basis of having previously demonstrated good sensory acuity and numeracy in using sensory scales, was recruited to serve as the sensory panel.
The panellists were given a range of popcorn and, in open discussion, were asked to offer words or phrases to describe the products and to identify and describe differences between the products.
From this initial exercise a total of 112 terms which could be used to define the sensory properties of popcorn were generated.
By eliminating synonyms and similar terms the list of descriptors was reduced, resulting in a final list of 26 descriptors.
Using the descriptors identified there were three panellist training sessions. The descriptor list was discussed with the panel and each descriptor was defined to ensure that the panellists had a common understanding of each term.
The panellists were then given different popcorn products and asked to assess them against the descriptor list in open forum to ensure that they would score the products as similarly as possible.
Next the panellists were given popcorn products which they assessed in a mock sensory testing situation. Panellist performance was assessed in terms of consistency and uniformity. This showed that these panellists had now been trained to respond in as similar a manner as possible, and therefore now functioned as ‘human communicative instruments.’
Finally the panellists were given 32 popcorn products to assess against the descriptors. All assessments were performed in duplicate.
Consumer Acceptance Testing
A Central Location Test was carried out with a panel of typical consumers, all regular popcorn eaters, with a mix of socioeconomic demographics, age and gender.
The respondents were presented with the samples in a sequential monadic order; the samples were debranded before being given to the respondents and the order of presentation was randomised to prevent any potential bias.
Respondents were asked to score each of the samples for a number of key parameters on a hedonic scale, as well as noting down any specific likes and dislikes.
By correlating the results from the sensory and consumer tests we were able to identify the key drivers of product acceptance in the eyes of the consumer. We were able to provide statistical evidence of the importance of each of the sensory parameters and generate a product profile of a ‘Gold Standard’ product, i.e. a product where each of the parameters were at an ideal level to maximise consumer acceptance.
Based on the results of the research, our client was able to reformulate their products to match the ‘Gold Standard’ parameters; after the reformulations were complete, we were able to assess the old recipes against the new recipes to ensure that the products had indeed been improved.