At Campden BRI, product benchmarking involves an assessment of the sensory features of a product: the flavour, the odour and the texture of a food or a drink product are evaluated and compared to other competing products.
The UK food and drink research organisation has observed a steady growth over the past 12 months as its clients want to know how “their product performs from a sensory perspective in the market place either prior to launch, to monitor quality or to address issues that may have been raised by consumers” explained Janetta Hylands, consumer and market insights manager at Campden.
Consumers are also at the heart of Campden’s clients concern because they need “assurance that products represent not just value for money but that they also meet their flavour expectations” said Hylands.
In the wake of the economic crisis retailers and manufacturers are less prepared to take risks with new product launches. When they devote scarce resources to developing a new product they want to be assured that it will have as high a chance as possible of succeeding – and that means attracting repeat buys.
The types of products sent for benchmarking ranges from ready meals to grocery items, fresh products and alcohol.
The global future of product benchmarking lies in the type of products that will emerge from the trend. “We are seeing a rise in luxury products and in the ready meal sector recipe dishes from the US, regional cuisine from outer Asia - Korea, Vietnam and also from Scandinavia” said Hylands.
To respond to the increasing demand and to better serve its clients, Campden last summer invested in new equipment and extended its existing testing facilities. The company now has high specification material and specialised eating areas alongside with its kitchens and sensory laboratories.
Campden puts a great emphasis on working closely with the consumers. It has a large database of “naive” consumers who take part in various food and drink testing. The organisation and its customers design together the test protocol, which is then submitted to the selected consumers.
In- house experts work hand in hand with retailers and manufacturers because in order to“ maintain repeat purchase levels, retailers want to ensure that product quality, value for money and innovation activity is optimised; sensory product benchmarking is a cost effective method to support initiatives in these areas” said Hylands.
The company has run tests for clients in Europe, Far East but also the USA, which indicates that product benchmarking isn’t only a European trend, but is a global one.