In fair Verona Consumer Research & Sensory Science lay their scene
An important event in the sensory research calendar, the EuroSense conference this year was held in Verona and focussed on ‘A Sense of Taste’. Emma Gubisch, Head of Consumer & Sensory Research at Leatherhead Food Research, reflects on some of the key talking points from the conference and what this means for consumer insight in the food and beverage industry.
One of the challenges for the food and beverage industry is how do we get to the bottom of what consumers really want, ensuring successful products are served to the marketplace at the right time? Consumer insight can seemingly point in one direction but then consumers’ actual behaviour in the marketplace does not always match their reported views or attitudes.
From rapid sensory methods characterising products to statistical modelling to predict consumer liking, the sensory and consumer field is awash with tools which can be used to gather rich insight. However, many in the industry are still grappling with how best to apply these methods to deliver truly differentiated insight and to go beyond the standard measurement of liking.
Take consumer context as an example – a key topic at EuroSense this year – how does the insight derived from the traditional central location test or hall test with consumers compare with insight derived from a more immersive setting using virtual reality or projection rooms? There is widespread recognition that the setting or context influences consumer liking, as well as consumers ability to discriminate between products and their level of engagement in the consumer test. Careful consideration must be made to the project objectives, the target consumer and the product in question when selecting the right consumer methodology. If the aim is to compare small differences between recipes to understand consumer perception, then a central location test where consumers are focussed on the assessment under controlled conditions may well be the best solution. If, however, the aim is to understand how a new disruptive product could find a place in people’s lives, then a more ethnographic approach is relevant, observing how consumers use the product in their own homes.
We can debate the pros and cons of these different methodologies endlessly and pitting one single methodology against another to a certain extent misses the broader point. The real value of consumer insight comes from going beyond a static benchmark or measurement of a consumer’s perception at one point of time to understanding the dynamic relationship consumers have with a product from the point of purchase, through the usage of the product and even after usage (how do they feel when they are deprived of that product?). This is about developing a much more nuanced understanding of consumer behaviour and experience, blending a range of different methodologies together, qualitative and quantitative, hall and home, online and face-to-face, to unearth an holistic view of how consumers engage with your product and brand – this propels you from the realm of simple product liking scores to the type of consumer insight which can give companies clear and confident direction.
“The range of sensory and consumer methodologies is enabling brands to develop a deeper understanding of their consumers’ dynamic relationship with their products – from adoption to use and deprivation, both in context and controlled environments.” Cindy Beeren, VP, Consumer, Sensory & Market Insight
Read highlights from the conference here.