Overview: Sensory Profiling & Corona
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New isi publication in the journal Food Quality and Preference
Food Quality and Preference is one of the most renowned trade journals in sensory product and marketing research. We are pleased yet again to publish research results originating from our own sensory laboratories or through cooperation between isi and other partners.
Our scientific research focuses on how we can continuously improve product acceptance tests. Forward-looking methods such as virtual or immersive consumption environments play an increasingly important role in sensory market research.
The current publication is the result of a cooperation between isi, the Chemnitz University of Technology, the Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg and the Nordhausen University of Applied Sciences. The publication will appear in the upcoming April 2021 edition of Food Quality and Preference.
Whether one beer stands out among others also depends on the choice of test environment. Immersive Environments combine the advantages of both the sensory lab with those of field tests.
What is it about?
The study investigates whether a product test utilizing an immersive consumption environment can combine the advantages of a sensory lab test (standardized, fast, cheap) and a field test (realistic, context-sensitive) without their disadvantages (context-independent, time-consuming, and cost intensive).
How does it differ from previous studies?
The study not only compares the methods, but also maintains a perspective on consumer segmentation. Previous studies contrasting the different methods having relied overwhelmingly on aggregate mean acceptance scores alone. This segmentation makes it possible to identify specific target groups in which different product variants are particularly well received.
While the mere observation of mean acceptance rates can lead to the conclusion that a product has little likelihood of later market success, segmentation can reveal that the product is very promising for specific consumer segments. For manufacturers, this insight is essential and impacts on product marketing.
What exactly was the study about?
The researchers asked participants to test products in three different settings in randomized order. In one setting, consumers tasted different product variants in a classic sensory lab test, in the second setting in a natural consumption environment (field test). In the third setting, the investigators used immersive environment to place participants in an environment that corresponded to the field test. One group of participants tested four different beers; another group tested four different cappuccinos. Participants rated how much they liked each product on a scale of one to nine (acceptance test).
What did the immersive environment room look like?
In the immersive environment test for the cappuccino test, the participants were placed a room fitted with a wall-to-wall, high-resolution video stream projection that reproduced the background of a real café; this was augmented by typical sounds as well as the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. For the beer test the researchers outfitted an imitation bar setting including a similar wall-to-wall, high resolution video stream projection and the ambient sounds associated more closely this time with a bar environment.
What is the result?
The resulting consumer segmentation from the Immersive environment is more consistent with a segmentation derived from a natural consumption environment than the consumer segmentation derived from the classical sensory lab test. The Immersive environment test thus provided a consumer segmentation that is much closer to a segmentation that could otherwise only be extracted in the natural consumption environment.
In the largest consumer group, for example, beer A (a well-known German Pilsner) performed best in the real and immersive bars. In the sensory lab, however, the beer did not score better than the other beers. If the products tested here were variants of a planned new beer development, the results from the lab alone would have put the manufacturer onto the wrong track.
Only in the smallest consumer group and only in the real bar did the non-alcoholic beer B perform better. This small group preferred non-alcoholic to alcoholic beer. Without a field test, a manufacturer would have overlooked the fact that there is also demand for this product variant.
So, where do we go from here?
Field tests, natural consumption environments, attempt to approximate reality. Laboratory tests are more standardized, cheaper, and faster. Immersive environment tests combine these advantages. The study demonstrated these combined advantages. The added benefit of consumer segmentation offered in immersive environment tests is also demonstrated in the study.
Immersive environments testing can accelerate the development of new food & beverage products and reduce the risk of a product failing with customers after launch in comparison to lab testing. This is especially true for products that are highly context-sensitive, such as beer.
"Business decision makers should consider replacing lab tests and field tests with Immersion tests," write the study authors. The cost of an immersive test falls roughly between the cost of a sensory lab test and a field test.
Anything else I should know?
The study leaders also found that the more context-sensitive the product experience in a tested product category, the smaller the number of participants needed for an immersive test to outperform a lab test in terms of meaningfulness. This is important in terms of test planning and budgeting, potentially offering cost savings.
Why should I read the original study?
The publication not only describes the experiment in even greater detail, but also provides an excellent and easy-to-read overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the various test methods.
"We have now gathered a lot of experience with immersive environment tests. With the help of studies, we are constantly exploring the potential of this method. In this way, we look forward to offering our customers even more tailored solutions for their specific issues. "Robert Möslein
"Our results show that consumer testing in an immersive setting produces consumer segmentation that is similar to that of a natural consumption setting. In contrast, the similarity between a segmentation from the lab and the segmentation in the natural setting is astonishingly low." Marcel Lichters
Marcel Lichters (a), Robert Möslein (b), Marko Sarstedt (c,d), Andreas Scharf (b,e). Segmenting consumers based on sensory acceptance tests in sensory labs, immersive environments, and natural consumption settings, Food Quality and Preference, Volume 89, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.104138.
a Department of Marketing and Retailing, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Chemnitz University of Technology, Thüringer Weg 7, D-09126 Chemnitz, Germany
b Institute for Sensory and Innovation Research (isi GmbH), Ascherberg 2, 37124 Rosdorf, Germany
c Institute for Marketing, Faculty of Economics and Management, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, P.O. Box 4120, 39016 Magdeburg, Germany
d School of Business and Global Asia in the 21st Century Research Platform, Monash University Malaysia, Jalan Lagoon Selatan, Malaysia
e Department of Economics and Social Sciences, University of Applied Sciences Nordhausen, Weinberghof 4, 99734 Nordhausen, Germany
Pictures: title pic by Lood Goosen / pexels
Dr. Fabienne Hübener is a freelance science journalist specializing in the senses and sensory research. She has been writing for us since 2017 and also likes to accompany our team with the video camera in the lab and at conferences.