By Marleen Chambault, Sensory and Consumer Research Scientist, Campden BRI
Does your competitor’s product have a more desirable initial ‘bite’? Or upfront burst of flavour? Is the texture positively received throughout the entire eating experience? Is there an aftertaste that consumers do not like? To answer these types of important questions in enough detail to inform improvements, you may need to consider using time-based sensory mapping.
Time-based sensory mapping with consumers is a useful way to characterise, in detail, the in-mouth consumer perceptions of your products during the whole eating and drinking experience. It can be used with consumers to evaluate both food and drink products to help technical, new product development (NPD) and marketing teams understand their products better.
The technical method used for time-based sensory mapping is 'temporal check-all-that-apply’ (TCATA). ‘Temporal’ is the key word here, as this method looks at the timing of the various elements of the consumer in-mouth experience. The 'temporal check-all-that-apply’ method allows you to determine when the different sensations are delivered by your product, and how the consumer experience changes throughout the eating and drinking experience.
Consumers select and un-select the attributes that they perceive from the moment they take a first bite or sip to the moment they swallow and beyond, thereby capturing flavour, aftertaste and mouthfeel. This builds up a time-based sensory map, which characterises the product and provides a really useful depth of valuable information.
After the TCATA task, consumers also indicate how much they like the samples, as well as how likely they would be to purchase them. This enables you to determine what temporal sensory characteristics drive consumer liking.
What projects can benefit from time-based sensory mapping with consumers?
Product development, renovation and innovation Time-based sensory mapping provides you with the complete in-mouth experience of your product, including the evolution of sensory characteristics over time and how these interact with one another. This makes it an excellent tool to guide product development by understanding and improving how a new product delivers the different in-mouth sensory characteristics.
In this way, it can be used to inform the improvement of the eating and drinking experience as part of product optimisation and value optimisation, and can be applied to validate the impact and effectiveness of changes and improvements to how various in-mouth sensations are being delivered.
Product matching Time-based sensory mapping is an excellent tool in the product matching process, where taking ‘temporality’ into account is essential. By enabling you to check whether two samples display similar characteristics, not only overall, but also throughout consumption, it can help you to match flavour or texture profiles and unlock how to match with or differentiate from other products.
Similarly, by examining the dynamic aspects of the sensory properties, time-based sensory mapping can help you to explore and understand differences in liking and why some products do or do not perform well in terms of liking. The ‘TCATA’ method is particularly good for highlighting the differences between similar products with evolving, complex sensory characteristics, where other methods may not provide enough detail to inform improvement.
Other applications Similar to how time-based sensory mapping can be used to validate changes that are intended to improve the consumption experience for consumers, it can also be used to understand the impact of changes that are being explored for other reasons. For example, product reformulation, such as for cost optimisation projects, salt or sugar reduction, MSG removal and sugar substitution or reduction. For any formulation changes or processing change, time-based sensory mapping with consumers can be used to assess the impact of change(s) on flavour, texture and aftertaste delivery during the consumer consumption experience.
Off flavours and off notes can be investigated via time-based sensory mapping, including whether they are present, what they are, when they are perceived and how long for. Shelf-life analysis can also include time-based sensory mapping, for example by using it to check whether an aged product features similar time-based sensory characteristics to a fresh product.
As well as guiding the projects explored here, the results from a time-based sensory mapping study with consumers can be valuable for use in written and verbal communications, such as product specifications, on-pack product descriptions, and advertising material.
Campden BRI can help you leverage valuable insights from time-based sensory mapping with consumers
Whether you are developing a new product or optimising an existing one, success or failure of a product will ultimately depend on what consumers think of it, so it is essential to understand the consumer response in detail when embarking on a product innovation or product optimisation programme.
Our experts have a wide range of quantitative and qualitative methods available to explore consumers’ expectations and experiences. No matter what our client’s challenges may be, we consistently deliver innovative solutions, helping them into a much better position to conquer their market.
If you are facing a challenge where results from consumer research would unlock the puzzle and present the way forward, then our consumer insights team can help.
Contact Campden BRI for more information on how time-based sensory mapping can be used to improve your products.