Estimates of the failure rate of new product launches in the grocery sector range from 70% to 90%, despite sensory testing, which usually takes place in a laboratory setting.
The researchers behind the Taste@Home Conjoint Testing approach – from The Netherlands’ Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research – suggest that allowing people to consume foods in the same way as they normally would at home could give a more accurate view of their opinions and preferences.
“In our experience … standard tests fail to deliver reliable results,” said researcher Stefanie Kremer. “After one bite, most testers express a preference for the sweetest or the saltiest option. But you need to taste products repeatedly to assess them properly.”
In addition, she said that at-home testing can help contain costs for food manufacturers, by giving consumers several products to test at the same time.
Co-researcher Anke Janssen said: “Think of it as a shopping basket filled with various types of products from different producers. The testers take the products home and eat them over the course of several weeks, as they would normally do. At the end of each day they write down their opinions.”
As well as sensory testing, the researchers said the approach could also be used to assess the effect of different label claims, such as ‘less salt, more taste’ or ‘organic and locally produced’.
They claim that an initial comparison of the at-home system and the standard lab-based liking test has already revealed significant differences.
Janssen said: “Some products were assessed more positively in a home rather than a laboratory situation, while others were not. We are convinced, however, that home testing is more reliable because people assess products in their own context.”