June 24, 2020
by ISR

How We Make Virtual Sensory Research Work: 5 Ingredients

We’ve been successfully conducting virtual sensory research for several months now, and many clients are asking what’s our secret sauce?  And, can we make it work for them?  An individual consult is best for determining applicability, but here are the key ingredients to consider:

Choose the right fit.  Some types of sensory research simply work better than others in a virtual setting. If you need a high level of control, such as in benchmarking and drivers of liking, then virtual sensory research can be challenging.  However, for research where there’s a bit of flexibility – think process changes, ingredient changes, quality improvements, even discrimination tests – these can be conducted successfully via remote sensory research.  

Give yourself some lead time.  Connecting virtually may be near instantaneous, but conducting research virtually requires some time.  Products needs to be shipped to our sensory facility, then separated and repacked individually.  Application instructions and other items are also packaged and then couriers are scheduled.

Think about the tools.  In a lab setting, we can control various elements (i.e., oven temperature, skin cleansing, the level of mixing). In remote research, we need to provide the tools which afford us an enhanced level of control – hello, food thermometers, soap, and blenders. It’s important to think through the application or preparation process and provide the additions that ensure consistency in the test process.

Step-up the training. We provide significantly more communication and detail than would normally be necessary.  We go beyond paper or verbal instructions to leverage live video where we can demonstrate proper application or preparation in real time so panelists can ask us to repeat or clarify the protocol.

Make it personal.  We conduct individual or small-group training rather than training in a large group setting. This encourages dialog throughout the process and ensures a more detailed approach to panel training.

So, those are our key ingredients. Please reach out and let’s see if we can make our secret sauce work for you!

June 2, 2020
by ISR

Case Study: Reducing Sugar Content

With the population’s increased awareness of the health and nutritional benefits of food, many of our clients are seeking to reduce sugar in their products. In this case study, we helped an ice cream manufacturer identify reduced sugar options in the short and long term.


Our client, a manufacturer of ice cream, wants to reduce the sugar content of all items in its portfolio: 10% this year and 20% within five years in order to meet the highest nutritional standards.

We need to provide information on the threshold for consumers for sugar reduction prior to adjusting formulations in other ways to account for reduced sucrose in the formulation.

We conducted a range test to provide information on the perceived differences of various reduction levels vs. the Control (current product).


We looked at consumers 18 – 65 years old (Female: 70-80%, Male: 20-30%) who were the primary grocery shopper and had purchased packaged ice cream. Our consumers were chocolate ice cream loyal, having purchased and consumed regular full fat, full calorie Chocolate ice cream at least 2-3 times per month or once per week during summer months. Additionally, at least 4 out of the last 10 packaged ice cream purchases is our Client’s Chocolate ice cream.

We looked at six attributes on a 0 – 5 point scale with 0 being no noticeable difference and 5 being a very large difference.

  • Appearance/color
  • Coldness in the mouth
  • The way the sample melts in mouth
  • Chocolate flavor
  • Sweetness
  • Overall difference from the Reference

Our findings showed that a 10% reduction in sugar is noticeably different overall from the current chocolate ice cream with 98% level of confidence. Our best estimate from this study is that sugar could be reduced by up to 8-9% before there would be a significant overall noticeable difference from the current product.

Here’s an example of the data we presented.

Contemplating a change to your product? Please reach out for a consultation on how our research can help you decide what changes can be made with minimal impact to the consumer.

May 1, 2020
by ISR

Key Takeaways on Virtual Sensory Research

It’s nearly two months into social distancing, and you may be wondering if virtual sensory research can work for you. 

Recently, we’ve conducted virtual research in several food and personal care product categories.  Our key takeaways are that virtual sensory research brings some interesting benefits on par with in-person sensory research.

Here they are:

Community. With online sessions conducted “Brady-bunch style”,  panelists can see and hear each other easily and in real-time. This sense of community prompts in-depth discussions and explorations, enhancing the sensory testing.

Collaborative. The round-table feel of online sessions also creates a collaborative environment with each panelist having time to share, so lexicon creation is more powerful.

Detailed. Sensory Panel Leaders plan out and then dive into the product details, enumerating all aspects of the test on screen.

Individualized. Particularly with semi-trained consumer panels, sensory testing is conducted in small groups, often 1 – 2 consumers per session, ensuring an individualized, personalized approach to the testing and allowing Sensory Panel Leaders to coach through the testing process.

Please contact us to discuss how we can structure virtual sensory research for your product.

April 15, 2020
by ISR

Qualifying a New Supplier

One of the most common uses of sensory research is qualifying a new supplier. Particularly now, when your current supplier may be struggling to keep up with demand, supplier qualification leveraging sensory research may be critical.

Here’s a case study in which our client was qualifying a new supplier of mustard oil, a key ingredient in their product.


Our client was looking to qualify an alternate supplier of mustard oil. We needed to determine if a sensory difference exists between the current product and a prototype made with the alternate supplier’s mustard oil.


Using two samples – the Current Product and the Prototype – we conducted a Discrimination Test (2-AFC with Reference). The products were placed with 36 panelists at our facility in Harrison, NY.  Sessions were held in the sensory booths, and data was analyzed at 90% confidence level for a two-sided 2-AFC test.


We learned that there were no significant differences between the Control and the Alternate Supplier’s prototype and it was recommended to move forward with the new supplier. Here’s an example of the data we presented:

Our client was pleased that they could move forward with confidence.


Ingredient qualifications are one of our key service areas – whether it is for a new supplier, a cost reduction or – as is very common these days – an enhanced health or nutritional benefit.

And our panel is working remotely, so we can conduct your research at any time. Please reach out for more information on how we can help.

April 8, 2020
by ISR

Virtual Sensory Research in Action

Need to conduct sensory research during this extraordinary time? Let us help. Our experienced sensory panel (7 – 10 years’ experience per person!) is working remotely with live training sessions and individual check-ins happening daily.

We’ll pack out and distribute your products, conduct training for our panel and then conduct the sensory research. You’ll have accurate results quickly and affordably.

Here it is in pics:

Our methods include discrimination testing, descriptive analysis, shelf-life testing and more.

Please reach out for a custom solution. Be well.

March 18, 2020
by ISR

Conducting Sensory Research in a Time of Social Distancing

Operations Update

We are operating as usual, although we are postponing all in-person research for the next few weeks as we await further information.

What Solutions are Available

While COVID-19 is new to all of us, conducting sensory research online and at home is not. Here are some of the sensory solutions available to you during this unprecedented time:

Shelf-life studies, sensory snapshots, experiential product assessments, descriptive analysis and even discrimination testing can be conducted at home by our trained sensory panel. In fact, they have extensive experience working remotely as well as on-site. We conduct protocol and lexicon instruction via video and then ship product to panelists.

We also serve as an add-on to your existing employee panel. So, if your panel is unable to conduct research or if you need help instructing panelists and getting them product, we can be your backroom support.

Let us help you achieve your insights goals. Please reach out.

Be well.

March 3, 2020
by ISR

Solutions for Companies with Their Own Panels

We’re a full-service sensory research firm with our own discrimination and descriptive panels, so you might be surprised to learn that many of our clients actually have their own sensory panels.  Client-site sensory panels are pretty common for larger manufacturers with ongoing R&D efforts.  If you have your own sensory panel or are contemplating creating one, you might be wondering how we fit in.  Here’s how our clients with their own sensory panels typically use us:

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January 16, 2020
by ISR

Reflecting on 20 Years of Sensory Research

We’re celebrating 20 years of sensory research and – would you believe it? – that makes us an old-timer in this industry!

So, of course we have to reflect on the last two decades at ISR. What’s changed in sensory research and what might be in store for the next 20 years?

Here are our observations about how sensory research has evolved, at least from the ISR perspective!

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November 12, 2019
by ISR

5 Tips for Choosing a Panel Operations Partner

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:

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October 22, 2019
by ISR

Hybrid Descriptive Analysis: the Basics

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.

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