Sensory Science and Consumer Experience

It’s hard to believe that Pangborn Conference has come and gone once again. The conference is always an intriguing bellwether in the state of our discipline. We look forward to it for so long and it vanishes far too quickly. Reflecting on the camaraderie of our discipline and the friendliness of our peers, some recurring themes occur. First among them is the combination of Sensory’s steps towards a more thorough understanding of the science of consumer experience.

New Techniques to understand Consumer Repeat Purchases

There were so many new and exciting Techniques to understand truly what drives consumer behavior when it comes to repeat purchase and ultimately product sales. Measuring product success must include not only the traditional measurement of taste and smell but all the stimuli that contributes to the whole consumer experience. It was truly fascinating. These techniques include social setting, environment, manipulation of texture characteristics, perceptual measures using consumer-friendly terms such as: natural, nutritious, indulgent, delightful, unique, satisfying, etc.

Marrying Sensory Science and Social Science

Sensory scientists are partnering with consumer insights, psychologists and physiologist teams to ensure terms and behavioral inputs are captured when asking consumers their opinion of a given product. These techniques allow consumers to not only tell you what they like and don’t like but to have them respond to their perception of a given product in consumer-friendly terms. This gives a more complete picture of final consumer behavior and whether the product meets their expectation for products claims (i.e. healthy, nutritional, etc). Of course there is a time and place for the traditional method, (consumer acceptance, product descriptions with expert tasters) however these techniques alone are not always a good predictor to product success after the first bite.

Pangborn 2018 and Consumer Experience

As we turn the page with anticipation to Pangborn 2018 and our rendezvous in Edinburgh, I’m excited to see more research paired with social and behavioral scientists to bring more of this research to light. Sensory science is about finding out what moves the needle for the consumer–the next two years will be very enlightening in this regard.