how to find your product's sweet spot with rapid sensory research

by: Andrew Turner

PLAY's sensory specialist, Andrew Turner, discusses how rapid sensory profiling can take your product to the next level by asking your consumers some simple questions.

sensory test using cake

In today’s market, businesses need to know their consumers better than ever, create meaningful connections, be able to make more with less and have a quick product development turnaround to keep up with fast-changing consumer tastes.

Phew. Just a few things to nail. No big deal.

But none of these matter if your product doesn’t make it into shopping baskets more than once. Rapid sensory profiling is a simple way of understanding which elements of your profile are hitting the mark and which you need to rethink. Too strong? Not salty enough? Too sweet? Your consumers will tell you – after all, they’re known to be quite an honest bunch.

sensory test using different coffee to researchTimes are a changing (very, very quickly).

When you think of a product that has quickly gone from a trend into something tangible, chances are they’re a fast-moving business or a start-up.

“Slow, steady and trustworthy” used to win the race but now “small, quick and nimble” is leading the pack. Traditionally, big brands have been built on long-standing heritage, family associations and trust (such that ‘taste’ was OK to be ‘OK’) but today’s consumer is demanding something more: they want choice, quality, integrity and even authenticity.

The good news is sensory research has evolved to keep up with these demands and deliver quick, actionable insights so you can test and develop products without the hefty timeline.

tasting different cocktails

Better understand consumer preferences in our CLT or in-home.

The ideal approach comes down to how ‘technical’ you want to be. A Central Location Test (CLT) gives you the control to assess lots of fine detail around the sensory profile of your product and inform a technical brief for optimisation. A Home Usage Test (HUT) allows consumer to try a product in the ‘real world’ but optimisation is focused on the fundamentals: Is it nice? Is it too sweet, salty or bitter? It’s informative either way but context is key!

It’s important to know what you’re up against. You either know your product (and category) well enough to take the findings and move forward or you include a competitor benchmark to see how you stack up against a well-known entity. The aim is to hone in on key areas that are ‘performing’ and ‘underperforming’ to guide a product towards 100% awesomeness.

tasting different food in a rapid sensory profileOther times, speed is key. You need a good guide quickly. Both our CLT and HUTs can make this happen as long as we’re clear on our objectives, what we’re comparing against and how big the sample needs to be in order to feel confident moving forward.

What’s more? Pair it with some online focus groups or depth interviews and you’ve got yourself a new, informed perspective, straight from your consumer.

Of course we can do bigger, more complicated sensory appraisals and there is certainly a time and a place for that but focusing in on the fundamentals is a great push towards a great product.

woman trying new drink over video research interview

Take your product to the next level with sensory research.

With Australia’s largest sensory central location testing facility (with 30 booths!), we’re well equipped to get a rapid read on your product. Coupled with decades of expertise and a firm understanding on which digital platforms are best for the research requirements, and we can make your project happen, regardless of whether it’s online or in-person. Get in touch to understand the possibilities today using the orange button to the right.

Questions? We've got answers! Get in touch or leave them below.

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about the author

Andrew Turner

As PLAY’s Associate Director, nothing pleases Andrew more than getting to the “Why” of people’s claimed behaviour. With a background in Social Psychology and a 16-year research career spanning FMCG, services and social territories, his key belief in any project is to "tell you what you need to know, not just what you want to hear". Aside from being our sensory expert, Andrew is an avid foodie and loves to wet a line at the nearest stretch of water. He’s also a musician, having once been the lead singer in a metal band.

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