Taking Sensory Out of The Lab

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Ellie King, Sensory Director

24 Oct, 2018 | 3 minute read

Context is a hot topic in the world of sensory and consumer research right now, so there was no surprise to find it was the main subject of many contributions and discussions at Eurosense 2018 in Verona (Italy) and at the Society of Sensory Professionals (SSP) conference in Cleveland (US) last month.

Context is right at the heart of what we do at MMR; gathering real-life consumer feedback in-the-moment and turning it into actionable insights for our clients. As such, we’ve developed a brand new methodology - Out of the Lab. It’s our unique way of leveraging sensory panel expertise in real life settings, capturing in-depth learnings around consumption or usage experience.

Our highly trained sensory panelists provide in-depth sensory characteristics of food and non-food products every day, so it makes complete sense to utilize their training and expertise to evaluate products and packs in realistic usage settings, such as in their kitchens, bathrooms or even their cars!

When sensory panelists evaluate products or packs in realistic settings, they not only provide in-depth sensory profiles, but they also venture beyond to incorporate aspects of product performance, functionality and efficacy, to capture the full consumer experience

Out of The Lab has two phases that can be used consecutively or as standalone.

Out of The Lab - Qualitative Phase

In this phase, panelists take the products or packs outside the lab and use them with very little information or instruction, the same way a consumer might do if they purchased a product for the first time. Using their incredible sensory abilities and attention to detail, the panelists provide articulate and descriptive feedback through videos, images and discussion. This process is managed via an online community platform which is facilitated by MMR’s Sensory Qual moderators. The panelists’ ability to articulate feedback clearly and precisely allows for the easy identification of pain points, areas for innovation and key context-specific touchpoints during usage which would likely have been missed in the lab. This stage can also be used as start point for the sensory panel to develop sensory language and protocols for further quantitative assessments.

Out of The Lab - Quantitative Phase

Rather than conducting evaluations in standardized sensory booths, this phase allows sensory panelists to evaluate products and packs remotely, in realistic environments, quantifying differences within the usage experience. Like any sensory descriptive analysis, panelists follow standardized protocols and lexicons to ensure they are aligned on how to measure the usage experience. Using mobile devices such as tablets and cellphones, we use notifications to prompt responses as panelists assess products across multiple time points throughout the day, allowing us to capture changes over time. The results are statistically analyzed and can be linked to consumer or analytical data too, if applicable.

MMR is boosting the power of sensory science by embracing context, using trained sensory panelists to explore the reality of consumer product and packaging experiences

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