What I learned about product research at a pub, in Fitzroy at 3am

What I learned about product research at a pub, in Fitzroy at 3am
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50 ways to please Adria

50 ways to please Adria
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Still looking for a healthy sugar?

Still looking for a healthy sugar?
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Starting a new medium

Starting a new medium
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Parmigiano Reggiano defines Drivers of Liking for consumers

Following my webinar for the AIFST looking at ways to Identify the Drivers of Liking in Food Products, I have kept my eyes peeled for producers who know what consumers expect of their product and aim to deliver it.

I didn’t think of this approach, and it is a classic approach, used by people who make cheese, wine, salami and other ‘artisan’ products.

Parmigiano Reggiano are not waiting for consumers to decided what drives liking. They are not looking at data or consumer complaints. No, instead they are getting ahead of the pack and identifying for the consumers the characteristics of the product they should look for.

In the short film below, Parmigiano Reggiano walks us through the key visual and textural attributes to look for in a cheese. This approach allows Parmigiano Reggiano to tell the story their way.

Everything from how to best prepare the cheese (taking it out of the fridge 30 minutes before consuming) and the proper way to cut the cheese (using an almond shaped chunking tool) is included to ensure the consumer takes the right steps.

They talk about appearance attributes: colour and springiness, and textural attributes: hardness and in-mouth crumble.

What I like most is when they discuss the formation of Tyrosine Crystals.

To an unknowing, uneducated consumer, these crystals would seem to be indicative of a low quality product. Although with some simple guidance, a brief explanation and a reason fro being, consumers can now see, and consumer the cheese containing the crystals, safe in the knowledge that this is a sign of the correct aging process. This product isn’t flawed, it is exactly as intended by the craftsmen and craftswomen who create it in Italy.

Drivers of Liking don’t always have to be defined by consumers, you can always jump on the front foot and set the tone of the conversation.

Take a look, it’s worth the 2 minutes and 47 seconds while you wait for your cup of tea to cool down.

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AIFST Sensory Webinar slides

Hi guys,
I have just uploaded the slides that I spoke through yesterday during my first AIFST webinar. Feel free to use them as you wish!

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Want to hear about Drivers of Liking? Join the @AIFST webinar – 4pm Tues 8th April.

More details here AIFST Sensory Webinar     More details here
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11kg Lego man made from cheese and coated in wax!

I have some very talented friends who decided to make an extra special effort for my birthday present this year. With the help of a few friends in the cheese industry, they were able to get their hands on enough cheese and wax to create this man.

Yes, I like cheese

Yes I have a hidden love of lego.

No, I didn’t eat the whole thing.

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Dr Herb Meiselman – Pragmatic Research for Product Development

Header Picking up on an idea from Jerry Seinfeld, when a big name from the world of Sensory and Consumer Research comes to Melbourne, I hope to meet with them, buy them a coffee and pick their brains about their specialist topic.
The NZ/OZ Sensory Symposium was recently held in Melbourne and I was lucky enough to catch up with Dr. Herb Meiselman, the guru of emotional research and our keynote speaker. I hope you enjoy it!

Can Trained Panels provide hedonic data better than consumers can scale sensory attributes?
Relying on trained sensory panels or internal employees to provide hedonic ratings has always been a big no-no. However, there have been some recent research findings that show the line between Consumer Research and Sensory Analysis blur, that is trained panels may be able to predict liking and consumers may be able to complete attribute scaling.

Seeking Herb’s opinion of which approach he is more comfortable with, Herb said he felt more comfortable relying on consumers to provide attribute scaling, than trained panels to generate liking scores. Herb consistently reminded me: Never de-emphasis the value and importance of hedonic data generated by the target consumer. It can be useful at various stages throughout the product development cycle.

Are Rapid Sensory Profiling methods useful?
We focused on the Rapid Sensory profiling methods that are becoming more popular in consumer guided product development of late. While never one to shy away from recommending large Home Usage Tests or Central Location Tests, Herb sees the potential in methods that allow for co-creation with target consumers.
Sensory Folks.001 While some methodological precautions are required, using small consumer groups to guide development can result in cost savings and increased speed of reformulations. Until academic studies catch up and test these assumptions, Herb remains optimistically cautious “We don’t know yet if they are valuable, they might be”

Any parting advice?
“Always aim to match a method to a need, not the other way around”. Herb remains open to trying new methods if they can be proven by replication and practical outcomes. “Some people are rigid about methods. I want to see something that works, but also meets certain criteria”

Coffee Order?
Herb: English Breakfast Tea, Kevin: Mug of Cappuccino

Dr Herb is an expert in sensory & consumer research and product development evaluation. He has published more papers than Australia has had prime ministers, has worked with the US Defence forces to fuel soldiers and co-founded Targeting the Consumer short courses. He is internationally regarded for his work in the field of emotional research.
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How can a Minimum Viable Product approach work in food innovation

My interpretation of a Minimum Viable Product(MVP). A MVP is a prototype that requires the least possible effort, the smallest financial expenditure and the smallest production run required to produce a stimulus that is adequate to test a specific assumption about a new market or new product.

A minimum viable product gets enough polish so that testers have a realistic experience. But not so much polish that it could be launched tomorrow.

For example, if you are launching a new Berry infused chocolate bar, you might test the assumption ‘I have the perfect flavour intensity for the berry note’. To do so, you wouldn’t spend much time on perfecting the shape or weight of the finished good, just the flavour intensity.

We all know the tech space is comfortable launching beta versions of new software, getting their MVP out there and testing the consumer appeal for these products. How well does the food industry do?

From my experience, we aren’t great at this, but we are getting better. When I first started work at Uncle Tobys (many moons ago) we show our products for consumer feedback, worried that someone might steal our idea. Instead we’d have the R&D team perfect a product before going to full scale consumer testing with 200 consumers, essentially crossing our fingers that somehow we’d got lucky and fluked a product that consumers actually liked.

Now my approach has changed. Most big questions in an NPD process could benefit from some form of consumer input. Using the cycle of:
1. Here is an idea,
2. Lets quickly test it in a small group with a bench top sample.
3. How’d it go, what did they think,
4. Do we continue to perfect this product or pivot to another new opportunity.

Too few companies allow the R&D team to run the development of new products, but this is a topic for another day. Often R&D teams are eager to change if it is based on data, not on a whim. The look to improve their products and most keen to rise to the challenge of creating products that are successful on shelf. This kind of thinking would fir perfectly with a MVP approach, a great addition to their current processes.

Here is how it could flow:

Goal – Launch a new moulded Chocolate with a soft filling
Assumption 1 – Consumers want a dark chocolate. Prototype. Test. Learn.
Assumption 2 – Consumers want this snack to be healthy. Ask them.
Assumption 3 – Consumer want a fruit flavoured filling. Are you sure, ask them, present samples, is it too sweet?
Assumption 4 – Consumers want this to be a single bite serve. How big is too big? Or to small?
Assumption 5 – Consumers love sea shell shaped moulded chocolates. Why not other animals or plants or geometric shapes?

By breaking the overall goal into smaller assumptions, these can then be quickly tested. Unconventional testing methods are available for testing flavour, fit to concept and liking of specific product components – just ask you Consumer Insight team.

Get your developer on board early. As the testing uncovers new learnings, product developers can roll these learnings into subsequent formulations. These learnings start to form the building blocks of the product, defining the product as you go, solidifying product attributes that become non negotiable – beacuse it is what the consumer wants. How do we know? We’ve asked them.

From my perspective, this iterative, MVP approach to product development makes a lot more sense that plucking an idea out of thin air, spending hours formulating in the lab, scaling up once the CEO or Sales Manager likes the flavour of it, barging in on production time to run a trial and then heading to Consumer Testing with your fingers crossed….
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