Food laboratories carry out sensory analysis during product development and quality control, where the properties of the foods are interpreted keeping in mind the five senses. Testing laboratories have the techniques to measure, understand and interpret human responses to product properties as perceived by the senses. These responses to food products are studied, to understand how well the product will be received by consumers.
Sensory analysis in the Food Industry has a number of applications and is used for
- New product development
- Quality control
- Ingredient or process change
- Shelf life evaluation
- Competitor benchmarking
Food testing laboratories play a key role in all these sensory aspects and these days especially competitor benchmarking as sensory analysis provides clarity in product characteristics of the competitor as compared to your product. Competitor benchmarking increases confidence in the quality of a product and the good attributes it has which drives consumer preferences.
During the developmental stage food testing laboratories prepare a profile or a descriptive panel for the developing product. Each time a change is made in the developmental process it is noted in the profile. This comparison table helps to evaluate which of the sensory characteristics need improvement for the product to be market ready. Sometimes testing labs also carry out difference testing where the same product is tried out for acceptance by consumers but with changed ingredients, example sauces with a sweeter or chillier taste, brighter or duller red etc. When a new product or new flavour is launched the product’s sensory analysis helps to determine its market value.
Shelf life ready
Food testing laboratories also test for shelf life to see if a product shows negative changes in change in temperature, like room temperature, refrigeration or frozen state. Also shelf life is an important aspect of sensory analysis as it determines for how long a food will remain fresh and not lose colour and taste. How long will fish remain fresh and odour-free or how long will biscuits remain fresh and not become soggy.
Sensory analysis is important in food production also because it ensures that every released batch of the food product has the same sensory characteristics which the consumers expect the product to have and for which they continue to buy it. Any change can lead to rejection by consumers. Therefore, before the batch is released it must be evaluated so that it meets the standards set by the food manufacturer. If it is below the acceptable quality set, the product can be improved before it enters the market.
Food testing laboratories also carry out sensory analysis for food manufacturers when they want to substitute other ingredients for those already in use in the present product formulation. This enables the testing labs to check whether consumers perceive a change when an ingredient is substituted by another one, is the taste, the texture, etc. the same one or will the product change? Any change in the perception can have a negative effect on sales if the consumer does not like the change.