The concept of sensory analysis first appeared in the 1950s in the United States. In certain sectors of activity, this evaluation method is used within a marketing strategy to identify the sensory effects caused by a product.
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What is a sensory analysis?
Sensory analysis, also called sensometry or sensory metrology, is a set of techniques which consists in evaluating the sensory perceptions that a product can cause. This involves analyzing the organoleptic properties of this product. This method is based on three levels of analysis: identify, perceive and discern.
Sensory analysis makes it possible to describe the components of a product through the use of the five senses.
- The view allows you to observe a product according to different criteria: its color, shape, condition and consistency.
- Touch is used to assess the texture (mechanical information) and temperature (thermal information) of a product through physical contact.
- Taste makes it possible to perceive and distinguish the different flavors (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent, etc.) of food products.
- The sense of smell makes it possible to detect through the nose the volatile substances (odors, aromas…) which emanate from certain products such as food or perfumes.
- Hearing makes it possible to identify the noise that a product can produce and indirectly assess certain texture criteria, such as crunchiness or crispness.
Initially, sensory analysis is mainly used to evaluate products in the food and cosmetic sectors. However, over the years, certain fields such as textiles, automobiles and furnishings, which place increasing importance on the sensory characteristics of their products, will employ this science.
Sensory analysis is the subject of numerous applications within the framework of a marketing strategy. It is established in order to reinforce the power of seduction, the comfort and the ergonomics of a product during its conception. In France, it enables many large-scale retailers to increase their market share, particularly in the food industry.
The use of sensory analysis to describe a product makes it possible to meet different objectives:
- develop a sensory profile;
- set up a classification between the different offers;
- compare products for marketing;
- define the Best Before Date (Best Before Date) of the products;
- improve a product by means of taste or aesthetic corrections;
- establish a sales pitch to faithfully restore the image of a product to customers;
- choose a service method depending on the product to be marketed;
- set up food and wine pairings in catering.
How to do a sensory analysis?
Identify the objectives of sensory analysis
Before considering doing a sensory analysis, it is essential to determine the objectives of the tests. For a company, it is a question of precisely identifying the reasons which push it to carry out sensory analysis. She must therefore ask herself the right questions. Is it about bringing a new product to market? To compare two different products? To do a quantitative descriptive analysis? To identify consumer preferences? This first step is crucial in choosing the right test to perform.
Set up a budget
To do a sensory analysis, it is important to define a financing plan for the tests. Indeed, sensory analysis is subject to very variable costs. The panel as well as the methods and tools to be used to evaluate the sensory criteria of a product are determined from this budget.
What type of test to choose?
Depending on the objective of the sensory analysis, several methods can be used and combined.
- The discriminative test to highlight differences or similarities between two products.
- The descriptive test to analyze and quantitatively describe the intensity of the sensory characteristics of a product.
- The hedonic test to ask consumers to give a subjective answer by evaluating the degree of pleasure that the product to consume gives them.
- The holistic test to invite judges to consider a product as a whole through the use of different techniques: categorization to create groups of products with sensory similarities, napping to place products on a single support called a “tablecloth” according to their resemblance, and categorized napping which combines the two previous techniques and makes it possible to combine qualitative and quantitative variables.
What vocabulary to use?
To analyze a product efficiently and with maximum objectivity, it is essential to choose the vocabulary to be used. This must be clear and uniform. Writing a detailed lexicon is essential to precisely define the terms used to describe the sensory criteria of a product. Each term should denote a sensation and an intensity of sensation. It is possible to complete the terms by a note for more precision. Special attention should also be paid to the turn of the sentences used in the questionnaires.
Which tools to use?
Many tools have been designed to simplify the performance of a sensory analysis. These can be handling tools such as tasting glasses for the sensory analysis of wines or olive oil, for example. Sensory repositories have also been defined as:
- the Pantone visual repository created by Lawrence Herbert in 1963;
- the olfactory repository “Le champ des odeurs” created by Jean-Noël Jaubert in 1983;
- the Sensotact tactile repository created by Sebastien Crochemore, Frederic Legay, Christine Millot, Jean François Quiniou and Claude Roques Carmes in 2007.
Set up a sensory evaluation panel
Carrying out a sensory analysis requires forming a group of individuals who will try a product and give their opinion on it. This group of people is commonly referred to as a sensory assessment panel. This panel can be composed of experts, but also of consumers who have no specific knowledge on the subject. Each person who makes up the sensory evaluation panel must meet the following criteria:
- demonstrate motivation to analyze a product;
- show no repulsion or allergy for the product to be tested;
- not present any disorders liable to alter the perception of the sensory characteristics of the product (color blindness, ageusia, anosmia, wearing of dental prostheses for food tests, etc.);
- respect the rules set for the test (do not smoke, do not eat before testing the product, etc.);
- know how to express their perceptions of the tested product.
Establish a sensory profile
The sensory profile consists of detailing all the sensory properties of a product. These indicators should be based on the five senses. Determining a sensory profile makes it possible to have the identity card of the product, in particular by measuring the intensity of the descriptors on a scale. It is possible to use this technique to achieve different objectives:
- identify the specific qualities of a product compared to another sensorially close;
- determine what triggers consumer preferences;
- assess the consequences of a change in a product to optimize its composition;
- check the conformity of the product according to its specifications;
- analyze the positioning of a product with a target.
Sensory analysis should be supplemented by the use of statistics. The goal here is to collect as much information and data as possible from consumers, but also to analyze them correctly. Statistics then play an important role in the process of sensory analysis. The interesting characteristics and significant data will make it possible to define the constitutive and determining elements of a product, to identify trends or to interpret results. Once the data has been collected and studied, sensory analysis can serve as a decision support tool.
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