Launching a new food product on the market is no easy task. In addition to the whole innovation and development process, it is necessary to have the right marketing strategy, find the right market…
When a product is unsuccessful once it is launched, this can be due to a variety of reasons, such as lack of consumer demand or acceptance, quality problems, fierce competition, unattractive pricing, inadequate marketing strategies or lack of understanding of the target market’s preferences and needs. In fact, while there is no single, definitive figure that represents the failure rate in all cases, some sources suggest that the percentage of launches that fail may be between 70% and 80% of the total.
Therefore, when launching a new product on the market, nothing should be left to chance, and that is precisely where sensory science comes in.
In a highly competitive and complex environment, the emotions generated by products are more important than ever. Trends come and go, so the better we understand sensory marketing and the role emotions and taste play in new product development, the better we can adapt to changes in the industry.
What is sensory science?
Sensory science, also known as sensory science, is the scientific study of the human senses and sensory perception. That is, it investigates how humans perceive and interpret the world through our senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch).
Sensory science is applied in fields such as psychology, neuroscience, physiology, biology, ergonomics and the food industry, and the results are used to better understand how humans interact with our environment and how products and experiences can be designed to maximise satisfaction and sensory efficiency.
How can we apply it to the development and launch of food products?
There are many factors that influence the emotional delivery of products, from branding, positioning and packaging to taste, aftertaste and satiety.
Through good sensory analysis, formulators can identify those elements that can drive the consumer through subconscious and emotional reactions.
An example of this can be seen in reformulations, in products that are low in sugar, salt or fat to name a few. Substituting one ingredient for another also impacts on the rest of the ingredients, so that the whole product is altered and the reformulated product does not have the same appeal as the original. So, would each ingredient have to be rethought in order to achieve an equally good version? Why not identify the key emotion that the original product arouses in the consumer?
Another case where sensory science can help is the acceptance of plant based products. The sector is experiencing some difficulties in connecting with consumers. This may be due, in part, to the fact that, although people may be aware of the need to include more of these products in their diets, they do not have a historical emotional connection with them, they do not remind them of flavours from their childhood or that they can relate to certain moments in their lives, which is fundamental when it comes to generating emotions in the consumer. Finding these stimuli can be a very important factor.
In any case, and regardless of the analyses to be carried out (although it is clear that the more complete the better), it is important to assess the importance of including them throughout the process, so that there is room to make adjustments in time.
What kind of sensory analysis can we do?
There are several types of sensory analysis to assess and measure the sensory responses of individuals to different stimuli. Here are some common examples:
- Sensory profile analysis: Used to describe and quantify the sensory characteristics of a product. Trained panelists evaluate different sensory attributes, such as taste, aroma, texture and appearance, and describe them using rating scales.
- Difference or discrimination tests: These tests are conducted to determine whether there is a perceptible difference between two or more products or samples. Panellists are trained to identify and discriminate between differences in specific attributes, such as taste or smell.
- Preference tests: These are used to measure consumer preferences between different products or variants. Panellists evaluate and compare products and express their preferences through rating scales or ranking methods.
- Threshold tests: These tests determine the minimum point at which a stimulus becomes perceptible to a person. For example, the threshold for detecting sweet or bitter taste can be measured by gradually diluting a solution until the panellist can identify the taste.
- Acceptability tests: These tests assess the level of consumer acceptance of a product. Panellists evaluate the product in terms of taste, flavour, texture, aroma and other attributes, and provide feedback on their level of liking or disliking.
Technology also plays an important role in this type of analysis, as tools such as facial recognition or eye tracking can help to assess people’s reactions in an objective way.