So many of our clients have their own sensory panels or want to build their own panel, but building and managing sensory panels can be a burden on already-overworked research teams. That’s where a panel operations partner comes in, but how do you choose the right one for your organization?
Here are a few thoughts on what to look for in a sensory panel management company:
Industry Experience. For what industries does the company have panel management experience? Clearly, the panel company should have experience conducting sensory research in your product category or experience that is obviously transferable to your category.
Panel Experience. Does the company have experience in recruiting, training, managing and monitoring these panels? Some companies can manage the panel but have not recruited for it; others can manage the staffing but do not provide thorough monitoring to ensure accurate results.
Approach. Managing client-site panels is a balancing act. The panel operations partner should welcome the insight and experience of the broader project team and be flexible in their approach, while maintaining a strict adherence to protocols and principles.
Creativity. Will the panel partner be proactive in employing innovative approaches to uncovering insights in the product category.
Operations. Will the day-to-day operations be seamless and efficient? Some important considerations:
Supervised by an experienced sensory researcher
On-site panel leader
Ongoing communication with project teams
Community building training and exercises among panelists
Continuous improvement initiatives
Ready to look for a panel partner company? Give us a shout!
Need to know how your product is different than the competition? We use Hybrid Descriptive Analysis to answer this question.
It identifies attributes and characteristics that are meaningful to the product developer for your product category.
We use our trained sensory panel to test the product. Training is led by a sensory expert, and continuous feedback is provided to the panel. Because it is product focused, panel training is shorter than with other methods.
Through this testing, the panel aids in “lexicon” development.
At the end of the project, you will know how your product differs from the competition. And, you can use some of the terminology for consumer testing. You’ll also be able to provide guidance to product development teams
Hybrid Descriptive Analysis can be used for many product categories, such as Food, Beverage, Beauty, Personal Care and Household Care.
Our client wanted to understand product deficiencies (identified in a prior study) for their salsa product versus key competitors. Four prototypes were developed to address these deficiencies and push out the sensory space. Because the competitive set is so diverse, we also wanted to achieve a holistic understanding of the entire category.
We used Category Appraisal to address this challenge. Category Appraisal combines consumer product testing with detailed product characteristics (from a descriptive panel), providing actionable results for product developers.
Why use Category Appraisal?
While consumers can tell us what they like and don’t like, it is often difficult for them to articulate enough detail to guide product development. Category appraisal addresses these limitations through the use of a trained sensory panel.
What We Did
What We Learned
We identified the key drivers of liking (positive and negative) by consumer preference segments, and the sensory attributes that differentiate the salsas. We also mapped the sensory space to identify which attributes explain half of sensory differences across the products
Through our research, we learned that none of the Prototypes achieves significantly higher Overall Liking (mean) over Control; however, Prototypes 1 and 2 performs at parity to Control on liking.
Other key learning include:
Prototype 1 is more well-liked than Competitors W and G.
Prototype 2 is parity to Competitors W and G.
Prototype 1has no major deficiencies while the competition have several key areas in which to improve their flavor profiles.
Our client wanted to determine whether any sensory differences exist between the Control and Test samples of their Medicinal oil. The test sample utilized a masker to address an off-note in the Control.
What We Did
We utilized Descriptive Analysis and our panel of trained sensory experts, each with 7-10 years of experience to analyze the two products.
A lexicon was created based on the Control and the Test sample with masker. A lexicon is the language that is typically used to describe the product’s attributes.
The Panel was then trained on the selected attributes. Upon completion of the training, the panel evaluated the Control and Test samples in 2 replications. Individual panel scores were collected online and a t-test analysis was performed at 95% confidence level.
What We Learned
The Masking agent did have an impact on the overall Flavor and on the Skunky notes of the Test samples. The Test Sample with the masking agent was found to have less Overall Flavor Intensity, with less Skunky aroma and flavor; and slightly higher Astringency and bitter aftertaste.
How do color and fragrance attributes influence the perception of an efficacious laundry detergent? We recently explored this by combining consumer qualitative and quantitative research methodologies with flash profiling conducted by a trained descriptive panel. The results are illustrated in our Pangborn 2019 poster.
Consumers perceive a clear, moderately fragranced high tech laundry detergent to be more efficacious in cleaning laundry.
Fragrance, color, and trust in technology effect consumers’ purchasing decision of a laundry detergent. Consumers believe that clear laundry detergent with clearly labeled technology on packaging is more effective in cleaning laundry than saturated color detergent. The addition of fragrance to a clear detergent increases efficacy perception but a too low or too high fragranced detergent is perceived to be less efficacious.
Future research is needed to further explore the interaction of other sensory cues that affect the perception of efficacy.
In this case study, our client needed to qualify additional manufacturing lines in order to increase capacity on the production of chewable vitamins. Providing additional capacity was essential to delivering on order commitments.
Most importantly, given the volumes of the business, we had to ensure that this change would not impact the sensory characteristics of the chewable vitamins and risk alienating our client’s current users.
Leveraging descriptive analysis, we were able to incorporate the inherent variability in the current manufacturing process, so that we did not incorrectly fail a facility due to a difference from a single lot.
You’re probably familiar with our standing descriptive and discrimination panels (if not, click here), but did you know that we also offer semi-trained consumer panels and in-context panels? Lately, these panels are very much in demand as manufacturers seek deeper insights into product usage and experiences.
Here’s the 101 on these panels:
In-context Sensory Panels
These are sensory acute and articulate panelists
The ISR panel encompasses 20 panel members with a minimum of seven years’ experience
Trained to objectively evaluate attribute intensities without judging the product on liking (as opposed to consumer tests)
Able to complete sensory evaluations in context
Useful for receiving technical feedback as well as experiential feedback
Semi-trained Consumer Panels
These are high users of the category
Trained with protocol and lexicon instruction, utilizing terminology that is precise
Able to complete sensory evaluations in the lab or in context
Useful for obtaining emotional and experiential feedback and product guidance.
And for those companies who prefer to leverage their own sensory panels, we offer client-site panel recruiting, training, management and auditing services. You can learn more here or just contact us!
The future looks bright for Tate & Lyle’s low-calorie sugar, Allulose. “Ever since the FDA decided to exclude Tate & Lyle’s super low-calorie sugar, Allulose, from the total and added sugar declarations on the Nutrition Facts panel, manufacturers across categories have been clamoring to learn how the ingredient might help them meet growing consumer demand for lower-calorie and lower-sugar products.” (FoodNavigator-usa.com)
At ISR, this is a common request from our clients. There’s a need to make an ingredient change – sometimes driven from a cost perspective, other times because the ingredient offers new marketing opportunities or responds to consumer demands — in any case, our clients are concerned about altering consumer perception of their product.
In these situations, we often use our temporal dominance of sensation technique and our standing sensory panel to help guide manufacturers as they pursue ingredient (or manufacturing) changes to the product.
In the case of Tate & Lyle’s new offering, Avishan Amanat, Director of ISR, states “Our TDS technique along with our Descriptive Analysis panel can actually help our clients better understand the influence of Allulose on sweetness level, as well as understand the impact on taste, flavor and aftertaste when used in combination with other sweeteners.”
You can see below how TDS was used in a recent mouthwash analysis. Our client wanted to compare multiple sensations over time. We were able to identify which sensations appeared, when they appeared, and how long they lasted.
TDS can be used for virtually any product category!
If you’re heading to the ESOMAR Client Summit in NYC this week, we’d love to catch up with you. We’ll have a tabletop exhibit so please pop by to say hello! Or, reach out and we’ll arrange a time for coffee or food!