Sensory Acceptability of Smoking Control Products
The Sensory Dimensions difference
By providing a framework for this study to be conducted in a safe and ethical manner, and with the appropriate controls over safety, dose and data quality, we were able to help our client make a critical commercial decision.
Our client was developing a new nicotine replacement (NRT) chewing gum and needed to be certain that the prototypes offered a significant advantage over a key competitor, in terms of both taste profile and consumer acceptability. Nicotine introduces adverse flavours and mouthfeel characteristics and so developing good tasting NRT gum is a difficult challenge, but vital to maximise patient compliance. In addition, as nicotine is a pharmaceutically active ingredient, the safety and ethical aspects of taste research were of paramount importance.
First, we evaluated the flavour and textural characteristics of prototypes and competitor samples using descriptive sensory profiling by a trained panel. Then the prototype offering the strongest and longest lasting mint flavour, together with the softest texture, was selected for quantitative consumer research against the leading competitor.
What We Did
We conducted all aspects of this work in accordance with the principles of Good Clinical Practice (GCP), writing of study protocols and submitting study documents for review by an Independent Ethics Committee. We also implemented sample accountability records, collected informed consent and documented Adverse Events.
For ethical and safety reasons, it was not appropriate to use one of our existing sensory profiling panels so we recruited, medically screened and trained a new panel of heavy smokers. Under expert moderation, the panel developed a sensory vocabulary to describe the flavour, chew, aftertaste and mouthfeel of the gums. They then rated the samples following the procedure of sensory profiling.
The results led to the prototype gum with the most improved mint-flavour delivery and textural profile being selected for consumer research against the competitor gum.
Consumer research was carried out amongst 500 smokers. Dose control meant that each person could only evaluate one gum, so the samples were tested across two matched respondent groups. Respondents were pre-recruited and asked to attend the test site where, after giving informed consent, they were medically screened before doing the taste test.
What We Found
Smokers identified the prototype product as more acceptable than the leading competitor on the market.
The client has re-launched their gum to the market with on-pack claims of improved flavour and texture; helping make NRT more acceptable to users, and ultimately increasing patient compliance.