Sensory attributes are product properties perceived by one or more of the five senses: visual, tactile (mouth, skin, surface texture, etc.), auditory (crunch, squeak), olfaction (taste, flavour, smell) and kinaesthetic (including feelings such as cooling, burning, and tingling associated with use of a product).
Sensory research is concerned with objectively rating the sensorial attributes of a product using respondents who possess sensory acuity. These respondents can detect sensory properties and are able to describe them well. They need not be the target market for the product; their role is to provide an objective assessment of the sensorial makeup of the product; something that average consumers are not usually good at. While they are good at telling us what they like and dislike, consumers in general tend to be weak in discerning and describing sensory attributes.
Sensory research is often used in conjunction with consumers’ rating of products to provide an explanation of consumers’ preferences. For example, if consumers highly rate the smell of a product (“I really like it” or “I like it extremely”), sensory profiling explains what they like about the smell.
Spider charts such as the one shown in Exhibit 10.1, are often used to depict the sensory profile of products. They relate how the product is perceived on the sensory attributes that are associated with the category. The technique commonly used for sensory profiling is called Quantitative Descriptive Analysis (QDA). Listed below are the steps involved in the QDA process:
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