Sensory testing is an integral part of product development in the food and beverage industries. The process helps establish the sensory profile of a product and can identify potential off-flavours or other sensory defects.
There are a variety of sensory tests that can be conducted, but they all require human panels to provide accurate results. The issue, however, is that smell, taste, sight, touch, and hearing are all highly subjective, and what one person perceives as a strong flavour might be weak to someone else.
So, given these challenges, who conducts sensory testing to obtain objective parameters regarding the sensory profile of a product?
The answer is sensory panellists. These are people who are able to identify specific sensory attributes in products and provide objective feedback.
Sensory panellists usually have some background in the food or beverage industry, although this is not always required. What’s essential is that sensory panellists are able to identify the characteristics being evaluated in a product and provide accurate feedback.
There are a few different types of sensory panellists that are often used in sensory testing:
Each type of sensory panellist has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the exact makeup of a sensory panel will depend on your research objectives, project design, and budget.
Once you’ve chosen your sensory panel, it’s time to conduct sensory testing. But what does that look like in practice? It’s perhaps best to use a recent case study as an example.
A leading producer of spicy chicken products wanted to assess whether there were any discernible differences in dried spices sourced from two different origins.
A sensory profiling exercise was conducted using a panel of 14 trained panellists. An initial descriptor generating session identified 28 key parameters that would be used to measure attributes of chicken products. The panellists were then asked to assess the chicken products with spices from each origin.
A report was generated to show the mean scores of each key parameter for the chicken products made with spices from each origin. Significant differences were highlighted at 95% confidence to clearly identify where the products differed in sensory terms.
Based on the feedback from the research, there were demonstrable discernible differences in their products when using spices from two different origins. The client was then able to assess the level of difference and make an informed decision regarding the sourcing of spices.
At WSS, we boast an extensive roster of professionally trained sensory panellists and an extensive pool of laypeople with above-average sensory acuity. We also have a broad range of demographics from which you can construct your panel.
Thus, no matter your requirements regarding your sensory panel, we have the resources and personnel to meet your needs.
So, if you wish to learn more about sensory testing or you need to submit your product(s) through a round of sensory profiling, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today. We would be more than happy to discuss your requirements in further detail and answer any questions you may have.