27 Nov 2018
Puratos’ drive for innovation is closely connected with our unique, mobile, sensory consumer research tools. Our Sensobuses, Sensovans and Sensoboxes can be found all across the world and are busy discovering what consumers want. What are the advantages of a Sensobus consumer test? And what does a regular day on the Sensobus looks like? Samy Hassoun, Sensobus representative for the past 5 years, takes us on a journey.
The Sensobus is a unique and fully-equipped sensory analysis lab on wheels that can travel to the locations where consumers shop for food. It allows our clients to test pricing, marketing and communication concepts directly with real consumers. Samy explains the advantages of conducting a Sensobus consumer test: “You can have your products evaluated by real consumers; men and women on the street who give their honest opinion about a product. Consumers in the Sensobus represent different social classes, ages and food interests. That’s the power of the Sensobus: it reveals what consumers are really thinking.”
The Sensobus can, of course, be used for blind tastings, but also for concept, pricing and packaging tests in order to analyse the impact of a product’s pricing and presentation. Any product can be tested; the Sensobus is not limited to bread, pastries or chocolate. “We can test all kinds of food, like ice cream with fruit fillings, or freshly prepared pizza with a sourdough base.”
Consumer answers can to then be collated with laboratory tests and expert panel descriptions in order to gain a deeper understanding of consumer preferences. Results can then be recorded in an extensive database.
To make sure the consumers don’t give socially-desirable answers, or get influenced by their peers, various measures are taken. First of all, the questions are optimised based on over 10 years of expertise in conducting sensory consumer research. But there’s more. Samy adds, “We travel across Europe and the questionnaire is always in the local language. Our hosts and hostesses brief the consumer very clearly on how to taste the products and how to answer the questions. When adolescents or groups of friends come in, we make sure they are not seated next to each other so that they can’t influence one another when filling out the questionnaire.”
Working on the Sensobus feels like managing a mini-event every day. “From the setting up of the Sensobus at the location to the management of the host(esse)s, and from the preparation of the products to consumer reactions. We arrange it all, from A to Z. We do this with 6-7 people including the host(esse)s, a Sensobus truck driver, an R&D person (who’s responsible for the product) and me.”
Every Sensobus mission is very well planned. It all starts with a briefing from the Puratos Marketing Intelligence Team. “In coordination with the customer who requested the test, they set-up a research methodology, create a programme and an appropriate questionnaire. They also find locations – the Sensobus needs a location where a lot of consumers pass by, like a square in a city centre, or a supermarket car park.”
Testing day starts early. After arriving at the location, it takes about an hour to set up the Sensobus. “The walls of this adapted vehicle slide open at both sides to increase the space, we clean the Sensobus one more time and we install the questionnaires on the computers. We then start organising the product preparation in the kitchen. We do mostly ‘blind tasting’, which means that we don’t add a concept or brand to the products. When there are multiple products to taste, we label each product with an illogical code (e.g. AX, OW, VL, TI or 523, 781) so we can let consumers know which product they need to evaluate and when.”
After the product preparation, the hosts/hostesses are briefed and trained on the research-methodology and on how to give instructions to the consumers. “Then, at about 10 a.m., we open the doors to the consumers. We have an average of 150 consumers in the Sensobus per day. It can easily be more, but the number of consumers we reach in one day depends on multiple factors. The weather plays an important role, if the weather is either very good or very bad, consumers won’t come in.”
The Sensobus travels all across Europe. Over the past 5 years, Samy has seen almost every European country. He notes there are many local differences. “In Western Europe, it’s difficult to get consumers into the Sensobus, they need to be cajoled, whereas in Eastern Europe, consumers are genuinely curious about what’s going on inside. They are more eager to come in and find out what’s happening and to taste new products.”
The Sensobus can be a powerful tool in gaining consumer insights. Are you developing a new product and want our Sensobus to gather some meaningful data? Contact your local Puratos representative or visit the Sensobus at one of its next locations to learn more about its working methods:
6th-7th December: Belgium