Do you want your products to be tested directly by consumers? To be compared to those of your competitors? The consumer test is a great classic form of sensory analysis and is performed routinely by many manufacturers.
But do you know that there are many pitfalls that should be avoided to achieve reliable results?
Here is a non-exhaustive list of factors that may influence your data:
- The target group: will the consumers be representative of those you want to study?
- Sample size: too small a sample may not be enough, but too large a sample will tire out your subjects; all participants should eat a roughly equal portion.
- Presentation of samples: they will not be assessed in the same way if presented alone or as a comparison.
- The number of samples tested in one session: pay attention to sensory fatigue and weariness; in particular, pay attention to non-exclusive sessions that blend different types of products and increase the number of samples.
- Asking questions in a way that does not influence the answers: limiting the number of questions and avoiding redundant questions that cause fatigue among participants.
- The temperature of the products tested, which should be checked and kept constant; if your hot products are not served at the same temperature, there will be a significant bias.
- Recruitment screening: pay attention to subjects who are a little too familiar with the products, less naive and sometimes find it easy to guess the responses that will guarantee their inclusion in the study! It may be helpful to ask the questions again during the sessions.
- Compensation for subjects that motivates them to concentrate.
You might want to consult the AFNOR NF V09-501 norm, which provides a general guide for hedonic measures.
Similarly, the evaluation conditions that you put in place should help meet your objectives:
- The way samples are presented: anonymous or not; it is clear that information on the product, brand or price can influence hedonic appreciation.
- Test conditions: a single laboratory evaluation will not necessarily provide the same results as repeated use at home.
Finally, if the number of consumers recruited allows, we strongly encourage you to consider segmenting preferences. This will allow you to go further than the average trend and will give you a much better understanding of the market.
By taking these precautions, and by asking the right questions, you can get reliable results that can be easily defended from a marketing standpoint… 😉