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Projective methods reveal what consumers like.

The sensory experience and pleasure derived from eating are among the strongest motivators for consumers' repeated choices. Therefore it is important to know which sensory perceptions and experiences of a product are favored or most liked by different consumers in different eating situations.

Consumers also are influenced by subconscious emotions. Scientists at Sweden's industrial research institute SIK, in collaboration with the marketing institute tns gallup, have developed a new projective research system--NeedScope Senser--that helps consumers to articulate and describe sensory perceptions as well as all levels of needs and brand perceptions, from functional to subconscious emotive. This means that product developers can optimize the sensory profile for a product and match it with the intended market positioning.

NeedScope Senser combines tns gallup's psychological model, which lifts the consumer's inner product perception to a conscious level, and SIK's sensory analysis method, which describes and measures the sensory properties of raw materials and products objectively and consistently. NeedScope Senser allows consumers to interpret their sensory perceptions using validated images. These images are linked to specific positions on a sensory map. This map of sensory space offers opportunities to identify and describe the sensory infrastructure of a product category. It is an optimization of the consumer's total experience, to ensure that all the characteristics of the product, packaging, exposure, marketing and brand, match to the smallest detail.

By using multivariate analysis, it's possible to determine how a product should be designed, based on recipe and a process, to satisfy different consumer demands and expectations in different eating situations.

The technique was developed as part of a pilot project dealing with yogurt. Research showed that there are four clearly distinct sensory segments linked to inner consumer needs and external influences regarding this product:

* A creamy, bulky, filling yogurt satisfies our need for enjoyment.

* For breakfast on weekdays, the less bulky, slightly thinner and more acid yogurts were beneficial, natural and satisfied health and energy requirements.

* A bulky, relatively thick and slightly sweet yogurt was suitable as an adult snack.

* A drinkable, thin yogurt was designated as yogurt for the young.

In an introductory, qualitative study, consumers expressed their views on yogurt products during personal in-depth interviews. They also had the opportunity, in conjunction with sampling, to project their experiences and feelings into abstract paintings and photographs of faces representing different personalities. With the aid of a static trial design, yogurt products were produced that demonstrated a broad variation in sensory features related to differences in consistency.

The products were characterized partly with the aid of a trained sensory panel to produce a "fingerprint" of each product's sensory profile and, using a number of instrumental techniques, to determine each product's rheological features and microstructure.

Further information. Annika Astrom, SIK, Box 5401, SE-402 29 Gothenburg, Sweden; phone: +46 31-335 56 00; fax: +46 31-83 37 82; email: ana@sik.se; URL: http://www.sik.se/.
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:479
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