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Love and Affective Testing

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It’s February again, and the pressure is on to pick the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.  My mind draws a blank, and I question how I can be married to someone for 17 years and have no idea what to get him.  I could ask what he wants, but….what fun is that?  The ultimate joy is to receive a gift that shows the recipient you thought about what would be perfect for them.  Success lies in understanding their likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and unique perceptions. 

Each day product developers struggle with these exact concerns.  How do I create award-winning products?  What are the new trends in food and drinks?  What flavors does the younger generation like in the snack food aisle?  Fortunately, product developers can ask consumers what they like using effective testing. 

Affective testing takes many forms, including central location tests (CLT), in-home use tests (IHUT), and focus groups.  Each sensory test gives the product developer consumer insights into products or concepts. 

  • CLT:  In a central location test, consumers are recruited to visit a central location or testing facility.  These consumers can be recruited based on specified demographics and purchase or consumption history.  Consumers are presented with products and asked to complete a questionnaire for each product.  In effective testing, the ballot would concentrate on questions regarding how much the consumers liked specific product attributes or how much they enjoyed the product overall.  Insights are captured via hedonic scales or the use of preference questions. 

  • IHUT:  In-home use testing gives product developers insights into how consumers may use their products in a home setting.  Consumers interact with products at home and may report back on their unique usage scenarios.  For instance, if we are testing flavored creamers, respondents may be asked to use the product in their beverage of choice.  Thus some consumers may report how much they liked or disliked the product as a creamer in their coffee, versus others that may add the product to tea or an espresso.  Insights are captured via hedonic scales or the use of preference questions. 

  • Focus Groups:  Focus groups offer unique opportunities to dive deep into the minds of consumers.  Four to eight consumers are recruited and brought into a conference room to discuss their perceptions of products or concepts.  Panelists interact with a moderator who leads and gives prompts for the discussion and can interact with other panelists.  The ability to interact with other panelists is unique to focus groups and can uncover insights a central location test or IHUT may miss.  Insights are qualitative data.

Qualitative and quantitative affective data are useful in predicting which products will be successful in the marketplace. Qualitative data from focus groups can explore concepts even before prototypes are created. Qualitative data can also be collected early in the development cycle to identify product attributes to explore during CLTs or IHUTs.  Since consumers identify these product attributes, they are in a vernacular that should resonate with other consumers in subsequent tests. 

Hedonic scales, which measure likability, are the most common quantitative affective scales and are usually odd-numbered, with a midpoint representing “neither like nor dislike.”  Researchers should be careful to use a 9-point or greater hedonic scale to gather continuous data so an analysis of variance can be used to determine if significant differences are seen between samples.  Preference tests can also be a quick and simple way to see which samples win in a head-to-head pairing.  Ranking tests can offer the same insights but with more than two samples. 

Affective testing is a powerful tool that takes many shapes.  Used early and often in product development, affective testing provides consumer insights on likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and unique perceptions.  These insights result in award-winning products and efficient product development timelines. 

If you want to talk to a sensory expert about the best way to use effective testing to ensure your product’s success or have gift ideas for my husband… contact Mérieux NutriSciences now.

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