On the trail of understanding consumer tastes

How sensory analysis can benefit your business

08 December 2015

One point on which we can all agree as consumers is that food must have a taste. But what ends up in the shopping basket and on the plate is decided according to personal preferences, habits and everyday practicalities.

Several studies have indicated that consumer demand for food has risen significantly. Criteria such as taste, quality and price especially influence consumer purchasing behaviour. By 2020, aspects including origin, safety, ingredients and health benefits will gain relevance. Food must adjust to the quality requirements of consumers, as well as nutrition. For food manufacturers, this new challenge also brings with it opportunities in terms of product development and marketing.

Consumer impressions of quality and enjoyment are mainly determined by the interplay of all senses. These include taste, aroma, texture and the appearance of food, so the sensory properties represent one of the most important purchasing criteria.

Sensory evaluations can be used very diversely in companies. Typical uses are for product development, quality assurance and control, product modifications, determining or monitoring storage stability, as well as market research and marketing. This is what a number of specific test methods have been designed to help with; for analytical tests, the objective product perception is usually measured by trained volunteers, while hedonic tests with a subjective acceptance or preference of products is determined by consumers.

In particular, due to the fact that between 80 to 90% of all newly introduced food fails after a short time because they do not meet the expectations of consumers, the implementation of food sensory as a test method assumes an even greater importance. This is because it provides information content which other physico-chemical methods cannot provide. Direct effects of process or recipe changes or changes in the product during storage can be recorded in a form that is perceived by the consumer, which is closer than the measurements of other methods. One thing is clear; a product that smells, tastes or looks unpleasant will not be purchased again.

The experts at Intertek provide various sensory analyses to help you understand "consumer taste" and to increase the possible retention of your products on the shelves of supermarkets. As well as the creation of product profiles through descriptive tests, we also carry out difference examinations to identify even the smallest changes in your products at an early stage. In determining the date of minimum durability in addition to microbiology, sensory product characteristics play an essential role. For this reason, we are happy to assist you in determining and reviewing the date of minimum durability of your products. We also offer various workshops in the field of sensory analysis which can be tailored to your needs.

For further information on sensory analysis, download our white paper.

Caterina Neuerburg, Sensory Laboratory Supervisor. Caterina joined Intertek Food Services in 2014 and works as the laboratory supervisor at the organisation’s sensory analysis centre of excellence in Germany. Before then, Caterina had extensive education around market research and sensory testing for food products.