October 2, 2019
by ISR

Sensory Research in Action: Category Appraisal for Salsa

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.

To view the complete case study, click here.

September 18, 2019
by ISR

Sensory Research in Action: Descriptive Analysis of Medicinal Oil

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.

View the complete case study here.

September 11, 2019
by ISR

Flash Profiling: The Basics

Need to quickly understand the whole product set in your category? We use Flash Profiling to answer this question.

Flash Profiling is a fast analysis tool for understanding the relative positioning of products and to get a perceptual map of the product spaces.

We use our trained sensory panel to evaluate the product. All the products are presented together and panelists create their own attributes.

At the end of the project, you will know the positions of products according to their major sensory differences and you will have a visual map of the product spaces.

Here’s what a Flash Profile Map looks like:

Flash Profile of Medicinal Oil

Benefits of Flash Profiling

  • Language development for descriptive analysis
  • Screening tool for product selection
  • A sensory base for a preference mapping study
  • Enhances the value of in-house and round-table tasting

Uses of Flash Profiling

  • Short shelf-life products
  • Projects with one-shot evaluation
  • Children’s panels

Flash Profiling can be used for ALL product categories.

August 26, 2019
by ISR

It’s clear…the tide is turning in laundry.

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.

August 21, 2019
by ISR

Sensory Research in Action: Descriptive Analysis and Manufacturing Changes

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.

Want more? Here’s what we learned.

August 12, 2019
by ISR

Looking for more from your Sensory Panels?

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!

July 10, 2019
by ISR

How to Use Sensory Research to Explore New Sweeteners

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!

June 25, 2019
by ISR

ESOMAR Client Summit

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!

If you can’t make it, but still want to get some info from us, then we recommend that you take a look at this Capabilities Summary or our Facility Spec Sheet.

June 11, 2019
by ISR

Category Appraisal: the Basics

Need to know how your product stacks up against the competition and why one product is preferred over another? Category appraisal can answer those questions.

Category Appraisal combines consumer product testing with detailed product characteristics from our descriptive panel.

It’s useful when consumers can tell us what they like or don’t like, but cannot articulate enough detail to guide product development.

Here’s how a typical Category Appraisal works:

At the end of the project:

  1. the products are benchmarked
  2. attributes that drive product liking are identified
  3. the sensory space is mapped
  4. market gaps are discovered
  5. product development guidance is provided

Here’s an example of how it worked for Happy’s Blueberry Nut Cereal:

Category Appraisal can be used for ALL product categories.

May 29, 2019
by ISR

Understanding Supertasters

Here’s an interesting article about supertasters and how their preferences in other food categories could be used to help them choose wines. While it’s truly a fun marketing approach – who wouldn’t want to discuss chocolate and coffee preferences over a glass of wine 😉 – we definitely would like to further explore this idea with some sensory research.

First up, we’d love to see further analysis on this subject matter with specific regard to demographics.  For example, we know that only about 25% of Caucasians are supertasters, and we actually do not have definitive data on other ethnicities and races in terms of supertasting abilities.

Further, we also know that about 25% of people are influenced by taste, but many more are influenced by social behavior and food trends.  That’s why scientific sensory research is so helpful with ingredient and manufacturing changes, because it isolates the taste variable and removes the impact of social behaviors.  On the other hand, understanding the many factors that go into brand selection is the purview of our sister company, Blueberry, whose focus on consumer sensory research can incorporate both the social and the physical aspects of the product selection. 

Another area of further investigation would be how the consumers’ age impacts brand selection.  Millennials, in particular, often are not loyal to brands, but rather are highly influenced by peers.

Sensory science aside, perhaps a winery tour is needed…you know, for research purposes!

Should brands be marketing to supertasters?