August 19, 2020
by ISR
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Descriptive Analysis & Claims Research

Did you know that one key area for sensory research is around claims? Often, our clients utilize our research findings to be confident that they can make a particular claim in their marketing and packaging materials. This was the thinking in this case study with our client who manufactures throat lozenges.

Background

Our client, a confectionery manufacturer, wanted to develop a milder version of their current product for consumers seeking low intensity lozenges. In addition, they wanted supportive data to make the “milder taste” claim on the product package.

Methodology

We used Descriptive Analysis to evaluate 2 products — the original mint lozenge and the re-formulated mint lozenge. Our 12 panelists from a trained descriptive panel evaluated each of the lozenges in our Harrison, NY sensory booths. Training was held on key attribute intensities: Overall Total Impact, Overall Flavor, and Cooling. An Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) with Tukey’s means separation was used with 95% confidence level to understand attribute differences among samples.

Results

Our findings indicated that our client could confidently claim that their new mint lozenge was milder in taste than the current product. Here’s an example of the data we provided:

July 22, 2020
by ISR
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Descriptive Analysis for Product Improvements

One area that sensory research can help with is in understanding and quantifying product enhancements. In this case study, our client, a consumer healthcare manufacturer, wanted to improve the swallow-ability of one of its pills.

Background

Our client wanted to renovate its Pill A Triple Strength base business by applying an easy swallow coating to all Triple Strength tablets. Difficulty in swallowing the pills is one of the top consumer complaints on the Pill A business, due to the large pill size of Triple Strength. A new coating technology allows for an easier to swallow application and an overall enhanced consumer experience. A flag will be included on front panel for about six months either referring to “New! Easy Swallow Coating” or “New! Easier to Swallow Coating”.

Objective

The primary objective of this study is to understand if the new slip coating on Pill A Triple Strength makes the pills easier to swallow when compared to the Current Pill (A).

Methodology

Our trained panelists participated in the Descriptive Analysis methodology. We looked at 5 key attributes that defined the experience of swallowing, and a t-test analysis at 95% confidence level was used to compare the Control to the Coated Prototype for each tablet size: 

  • Surface Shine (None/Matte-High)
  • Off-note Intensity (None-High)
  • Slipperiness in the mouth (None-High)
  • Stickiness in the mouth (None-High)
  • Effort to Swallow (Easy- Difficult)

Results

Our research determined that the new coating technology contributed to significant ease of swallowing of the pill. The New Slip Coated Prototype is significantly easier to swallow than the Control. Additionally, the coating provided a slippery smooth experience in the mouth and lowered off-note intensity. Here’s an example of the data we presented:

June 24, 2020
by ISR
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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
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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.

Background

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).

Methodology

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
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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
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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.

Background

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.

Methodology

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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
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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
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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
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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
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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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COVID-19 Operations Update
We are operating as usual. Sensory research services, including descriptive, discrimination and semi-trained consumer panels, are all available remotely. Please contact us to discuss your specific needs.