Sensory evaluation technique had been used to evaluate the development process of a product, especially in food industry since the past 50 years. Most of the consumer would buy food that is based on sensorial experience; such as sweet, chocolaty, smooth texture and others.
Most food technologist, especially the food sensory analyst, knew the importance of sensory evaluation in measuring and choosing the correct or most favored food attribute or reaction. So, before the product was finalized, they had to make sure the product was design based on consumer preference; hence we can say that sensory evaluation is an analytical form of consumer testing. The food technologist just need to make sure that they have these 4 key factor in conducting the consumer testing:
1. What is to be measured?
For example, the product to be launched is some of a new carbonated drinks. But does is taste good? (too general, cannot be measured) Does this new beverage taste sweeter (can be measured by Descriptive test) than Pepsi or Coke? (Can be measured, Affective Test)
2.What test need to be used?
From previous example, note the mention of descriptive test and Preference test. These 2 test have its own objective (plus one not mentioned); Descriptive test is a test that is set to define the characteristic of the product. Let’s just say like this; You created a new chocolate, and you say it’s taste very chocolaty. PEOPLE WILL NOT BELIEVE YOU SINCE YOU’RE THE MAKER OF THE CHOCOLATE. So you need a proof that it taste like a chocolate. You need a test and it is descriptive test. You need a panel of at least 30 people to take your test and evaluate the result. You can only say it taste chocolaty when the statistical result from the 30 panel say so. There are many type of descriptive test (the function of test is different based on the type of test; we touched on that later)
Affective test; like it’s name is a test whether the panel like your product or other’s product. (came from the word affection) The most famous one is a hedonic scale test. Your product and your competitor’s will be given marks by the panelist and based on the cumulative mark (sort of; involve calculating statistically), it will show which one the panelist prefer. Like descriptive test, it has many type of test (hedonic test is one example of available Affective test)
One other test not mention is a discriminative test. The function of this test is to make sure your product is not the same with product in the market. It’s look like Affection test (panel will evaluate your product and you’re competitors). But the result can only tell you whether it is same or not the same with the other product. This is crucial, since the affective test can only tell whether the consumer prefer your product or competitor product, Still does not tell whether it’s the same or not. Same as before, many type.. bla..bla..bla
3. Define the panelist
This is also important, First, kindly define your product and your target customer. And when the time come to do the testing, make sure the panelist come from your target customer characteristic. For example; your making a new breakfast cereal for kids. It’s a no brainer; you just need kids for your panelist. Don’t accept old man as a panelist. Old man doesn’t eat cereal (that much). You got what I mean?
4. Analyze the data statistically
This is the time to deploy your statistic skills. (beside during the research) You make correlation or hypothesis test on your panel evaluation. If it’s good, proceed on to the next stage of development, if it isn’t, you knew what to do right? (tips: change your product based on the result)
You’re understand more on why is this important when you’re creating a product. It’s look like a business subject, but it is actually not. It is a science subject (still relevant to the blog title; easy science note.) The sensory evaluation subject is actually a statistical-neuro-biology-pseudo-psychology subject. I post more on this later. For now, Enjoy the post.
A.Aminah 2004. Prinsip Penilaian Sensori (In Malay) Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. UKM Publisher,
Bangi, Selangor. Malaysia
V.A. Anna 1998. Consumer Sensory Testing for Product Development University of Georgia. Aspen Publishers. Gaithersburg, Maryland. USA.