Sensory research in the global environment


May 30, 2017

by Kezia da Cruz

On Tuesday April 25, 2017, the Society of Sensory Professionals (SSP) held their Spring Virtual Regional Meeting.

Sensory scientists from across North America participated in a webinar on “How to be an effective sensory scientist anywhere on the planet.” The discussion-style format involved Chair-Elect Lydia Lawless from The Hershey Company posing questions to invited speakers:

  • Chris Marketo – MMR, NY
  • Bob Baron – Sensory Spectrum, NJ
  • Susan Hooge – General Mills, MN
  • Anne Goldman – ACCE, Canada

The discussions involved how to overcome difficulties when conducting research on a global scale. Key suggestions to keep in mind while facing cultural differences are: being patient, communicating clearly with the usage of both written and visual aids, and seeking advice from locals and native speakers. In regards to possible physical issues with transporting products, it is helpful to understand countries import/export regulations, and potentially seek an alternative testing location.

A big challenge with global research is that it often requires using different methodologies in different countries. In order to deal with potential issues when comparing different datasets and outcomes, it is important to have a good understanding of the objectives of the study, and identify trends and similarities.

Questions arose around sending employees overseas and giving advice to young professionals who want to travel. Ensuring that the person is the right fit for the culture, being flexible in working with other time zones, and understanding the labor laws in that country are among the valuable points to be considered.

Many employees who take international assignments either don’t finish or don’t return

Despite these obstacles, it’s still a worthwhile investment to conduct global research. Food and non-food companies are becoming more multi-national and there are huge potentials in emerging markets. There is also a greater need to understand the similarities and differences in preferences around the world and how best to adapt product tastes and marketing to suit diverse cultures, while ensuring consistency in global brands.

In New York, the regional event was organised by SSP Regional Coordinator, Erin Riddell (MMR) and hosted by The Institute of Sensory Research in Harrison, NY. The MMR’s Sensory Team was represented by Valerie Mialon, Ellie King, and Kezia da Cruz. Attendees also included sensory scientists from Blueberry, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, The Nature’s Bounty Co, Symrise and Virginia Dare Extracts & Flavors. 

Kezia da Cruz is Sensory Panel Assistant and Ellie King is Sensory Research Manager at MMR Pleasantville