Finding a common language for NPD

Finding a common language for NPD

The Sensory Dimensions Difference

By combining sensory panels and consumer research we were able to define the flavour and mouthfeel characteristics of a target soft drink and track development to target.



The Challenge

A client had identified a unique flavour profile for its new soft drink created by combining two competitor products with Angostura bitters. Despite several rounds of product development over six months, our client couldn’t match the target flavour profile. The challenge was made more difficult because there was no common language to describe how the target product differed from the samples submitted by product developers, making it increasingly hard to provide actionable feedback.


Our Strategy

We created sensory profiles for the target and for six different product submissions which gave us a detailed language of flavour, aroma and mouthfeel qualities, together with a picture of how each submission differed from the target profile.

We also ran consumer research to obtain a measure of acceptance of each product.

What We Did

Sensory profiles and consumer liking scores were combined to reveal:

  • The flavour and mouthfeel characteristics that drive consumer preference.
  • The sensory profile of the ‘killer product’ that would outperform the target and the competition.

Once two to three new variants had been developed we put these back into sensory profiling to see how close the new formulations were to the ‘killer’ target. This second round of sensory testing identified that one of the variants was a very close match to the target profile. We conducted final consumer testing to validate that our client had achieved what they set out to do.

Simply having a common language was, by itself, a big step forward. It immediately pinpointed how the products differed in a way that everyone could understand and identified how to improve the submissions to match the target.

Our client will continue to use this language going forward to describe different drinks products to each other and to their development partners and explain how to improve them.

Our results enabled the client to create a precise product brief, describing to NPD exactly how to improve the prototypes to match the perfect target profile. We confirmed that they had improved upon the original submissions and now have a great tasting product ready to launch!

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