Posted on May 31, 2018 @ 08:54:00 AM by Paul Meagher
How do you test whether consumers will like your product or not?
How do you reformulate your product so that consumers will like it more?
In the online world, A/B testing is a good way to figure out what works and to improve on what works. In the offline world there are a host of other techniques that are often used. A good resource to learn about some of those techniques is Sensory Evaluation Techniques (5th Edition, 2015).
Many of these techniques have been used in the development of food products. For example, a brewer might want a high level of hop character in their beer and to do that the brewer purchases different lots of hops that cost different amounts of money. If the brewer purchased 5 different lots of hops then s/he can offer 5 different versions of the beer to a test panel and get them to rate the intensity of hop flavor on a 0-9 scale. The objective of the brewer is to produce a hoppy beer for the least amount of money. A panel of 20 tasters were used. They were randomly exposed to the beers with different hops used. They are exposed 3 times to the same beer type. Mean ratings for each beer type along with other types of analysis were used to determine which hops produced the desired level of hop character. All other things being equal, if two different types of hops produced the same level of desired hop character, then the least expensive hops should be used to make the beer.
This example illustrates that the goal of sensory evaluation techniques is often not to simply come up with the best formulation of a product, but also to come up with a formulation that is as cost effective as possible. You may, for example, use different types of sweeteners in your product formulation that cost different amounts of money to determine if you can get an identical taste using a cheaper sweetener.
Because the lead author had a professional interest in flavor compounds in beer and hops, and was vice president of research at Stroh Brewery Co. in Detroit Michigan, there are some good practical examples of how to apply sensory evaluation techniques in the context of making beer.
Reading a book on Sensory Evaluation Techniques is not exactly easy or enjoyable reading. One way to read the book is to only read enough to figure out what technique might be useful for the particular product development or testing objective you have and then to delve into that technique. Another way to read the book, and the one that I find myself using, is to read the case studies illustrating how a particular technique was employed. Reading these case studies is often quite interesting and can give you ideas about how you might want to apply the technique to your own product development problem.