How to conduct a sensory analysis test : the golden rules

25 May 2016

Article

Sensory Analysis allows to translate consumer wishes, perception and preferences into recipes and process specifications. Discover the golden rules :

Your environment defines your tasting behaviour

Imagine that some of your customers are sharing and enjoying a cheesecake. Do you think each of them appreciates it the same way? If they were told that it is reduced in fat, would the taste remain the same? Would their perception stay intact if peers expressed their dislike due to too high levels of sugar or if  they were eating it alone at home?

Researches show that when we eat a product we are systematically influenced by all the clues that we receive on this product. So each judgment that we make on the taste of a product gathers not only the taste itself, but also a lot of other elements: our location and social environment; product information like labels, packaging or brand; even our culture and previous experience with food products .

Why set a scientific frame?

It is extremely difficult even impossible to disregard all these elements when we are eating product, and our judgment on its taste is altered by them. This is because of our brain, which integrates all these pieces of information into one global image of the product. 

So how can we know what people think about the taste of a product when so many factors influence their appreciation? This is where we need a scientific frame. 

In sensory analysis, by applying specific conditions and rules, we make sure that  we reduce and/or control the effect of all external elements that can possibly have an impact.

When conducting sensory tests, we will always present the products in the same neutral environment, and in the same conditions. It is crucial that the evaluations occur in a quiet environment, without any disturbing noises or odours. The lighting and the temperature of the room need to be standardised to ensure that the testing conditions are stable from one test to another. For the same reason we commonly use white trays, plates and cutlery.

Specific evaluation rules

To get relevant results from sensory tests, we need to apply specific evaluation rules:

  • Each sensory judge has to work individually and must not have contact with other judges during the evaluation. By doing so we ensure that we gather each unique individual judgement without any influence from the group. In the sensory laboratory, the judges can sit in individual cabins that are specifically designed to guarantee individual work.
  • The judges cannot identify the products. Therefore each sample is given a random 3-digit or 3-letter code. This way we avoid that any information related to the product influences the judges’ answers.
  • The order in which samples are presented might influence the judges’ evaluation. To control this effect on the whole group of judges, the presentation order must be randomised, and this order must be different from one judge to another.
  • Both questions from the researcher and answers from the judges are written on a standard form, to avoid any interpretation issue, misunderstanding or influence from the researcher.

This scientific process is fundamental to study the sensations when eating a product. We should never forget  that we are very sensitive to all types of influences above the taste of the product, and that we are limited by our subjectivity! 

How can we help you?

At Puratos all sensory evaluations are conducted according to these guidelines: internal tests with our expert sensory panels in our dedicated sensory laboratories, as well as external tests with end-consumers in our Sensobusses or Sensoboxes . This way we ensure that we measure people’s reactions to products’ taste in a valid and reliable way. 

Would you like to discover how you can differentiate on taste? Read our previous article or contact your local Puratos representative