#MRA_FOC #MRX Product Optimization by Mona Baker Wolf

This was one session that I attended because I have no experience in this area. What better place to learn something new than at the MRA First Outlook conference!

Here are some of my key takeaways:

  • We all have first hand experience with sensory testing and it consists of: Try it! You’ll like it!
  • The old marketing way of sensory testing consisted of finding out what flavour the VP liked the most.
  • You  can measure three things about products 1) consumer insights (what most of us do most of the time), 2) scientific measures such as saltiness or temperature, and 3) sensory properties including taste, touch, hear, smell, and sight.
  • Not everyone is qualified to be a sensory tester. In fact, a panel of taste testers goes from 100 to 8 people over six months of detailed training about vocabulary, protocols, etc.
  • I have never heard so many ways to describe the taste and texture of a sausage – bite down, chew down! 50 to 60 attributes per product! Wow!
  • Did you know that Coca-cola and Pepsi have cinnamon, lemon, and vanilla flavours? I didn’t.
  • You need a full range of scores to really understand a perceptual map – you need to know where the edges of the map are. As such, you need to test good and bad and strange and normal sausages to know precisely how the next sausage tastes.

Now we’re being trained with a York mint chocolate. (I came to the right session!) We were told to open the chocolate but DON’T EAT IT! First, we were to enjoy the aromatics. Then, we were instructed to look ridiculous as a group and plug our noses while we took a bite. Well, what a surprise to me! It is not possible to taste the chocolate if your nose is plugged! As soon as we unplugged our noses, the chocolate taste appeared. It was quite interesting to learn that chocolate is an aromatic, and not sweet, salt, sour, bitter, or umami taste.

  • And, for the psychometrist in me, it was great to hear from another source that all scales are relative. In this sense, geographic location has little effect on the acceptability of a product. The only different thing is how people use a scale. While relationships between variables stay the same (e.g., A is always greater than B), the specific numbers may change (e.g., A is 7 or 8 but B is 5 or 6).

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