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Does your sensory test result tell you the "truth" about your new product?

Sensory is essential for Food Innovation.

Innovation has been used as an integral strategy by New Zealand food manufacturers to create a lasting competitive advantage and to adapt the products that meet the needs of consumers, which has led to a greater need for New Product Development (NPD). Developing a new recipe for a new product is not difficult but creating a new product that meets the expectations of the assumed number of consumers is difficult. Food companies dream of selling their products with great success. The satisfaction, perception and ultimate consumer acceptance of the food products are directly linked to the product's sensory qualities. Hence sensory evaluation has become a vital step during the NPD process in the food industry.

Reliability of sensory results

The sensory evaluation results will impact the food manufacturers’ decision on whether this product is ready to launch into the market or needs more formulation work. Misleading sensory results can cost food companies a fortune by putting products with low consumer acceptance on the supermarket shelf. Hence the sensory evaluation data must be reliable. Before running any test, the sensory analyst needs to figure out the sample size (number of sensory panellists) and variables like confidence level and margin of error. It's the best way to ensure your results are objective, giving you a better chance of getting statistically significant results. The margin of error is the maximum that the sample results are expected to differ from those of the actual population (actual consumers). The smaller the margin of error, the closer your sensory results would match the targeted consumers’ results. For example, you will get a margin of zero when you research all New Zealand ice cream consumers for a new ice-cream NPD, which will be impossible or impractical.

Minimum sample size

The minimum sample size of 30 is recommended based on the Central Limit Theorem (CLT) in the field of probability and statistics (refer to Sample Size Formula). In the field of sensory evaluation, you need at least 60 untrained consumers to measure a product's liking. Different sample sizes are required when you use trained panels or untrained consumers. If you run a hedonic test within a cross-function team of 20 inside the company and find that the product is acceptable, you might have to rethink the results. The actual New Zealand consumers might disagree.

Running reliable sensory tests can be challenging as not every food developer is trained in sensory and data science. Whether you need consultancy, help troubleshoot a problem, or just a chat about options, give us a call. You can rest assured that we are available to provide online and on-site technical support, whatever the challenge.


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