inewtrition – Food Product Development Company

Sensory Science for Consumer-Centric Product Development

Picture of by Dr. Raphaëlle O'Connor

by Dr. Raphaëlle O'Connor

Raphaelle has over 25 years’ experience in the ideation,
development, and commercialisation of food chemistry,
food science, food technology, and nutrition.

Sensory science

The effective use of sensory science has the power to elevate your product development process and give you that competitive edge to gain success in the market. Putting the consumer first in the new product development process is key to greater success. Unlocking the answers to what it is that consumers want will help to shape the direction of successful innovation.

Simply put, how do you know what will work if you don’t engage the consumer in the process? and;

How do you know what it is about your product that is a positive, neutral or negative component if you don’t intimately understand/measure the characteristics of your product?

Not making the process of new product development consumer-centric and not understanding the consumer experience will lead your product down the path that so many more have followed, never to be seen again.

Consumer-centric success process graph

The process of consumer-centric innovation

Systematically involving consumers in every step of the new product process is the ultimate consumer-centric innovation.  At the start, understanding what motivates consumers, exploring their practical, as well as their emotional wants, needs and connection to products, can provide surprising and innovative new product concepts. Understanding the underlying motivations and drivers for consumer choice can give direction for product development. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that consumers also select products based on how they make them feel, as well as what they look, smell or taste like.

While products can be designed ‘for’ consumers, equally, consumers can be more involved in product design, allowing for products that are co-created with the NPD team and products that are solely designed by the consumer themselves.

What features of your product are likely to satisfy consumers? Understanding and prioritising features of your product to determine those that are a basic requirement, those that deliver ‘performance’ characteristics and those that ‘excite’ the consumers are important so that the satisfaction vs cost can be weighed up.

Understanding the sensory characteristics of products goes far beyond ‘benchtop tasting’ by the NPD team. It is essential that the sensory characteristics of products are measured by a panel of experienced, trained and objective professionals.

Descriptive sensory profiling is a vital tool that allows you to wholly understand your product and encompasses the full end-to-end sensory experience. Descriptive methods involve the detection, description and quantification of the sensory characteristics of a product. Think about how the balance between taste and flavour of chewing gum changes throughout the eating experience or how long the sweetness lingers in a consumer’s mouth following consumption.

Understanding factors such as appearance, aroma, taste, flavour, mouthfeel, texture and aftertaste/flavour can provide valuable insights and are vital when optimising product formulation. Below are some visual examples of possible outcomes from using certain descriptive methods.


The impact Sensory Science can have on your business and the value it can bring

As competition and complexity in the food industry increases, using effective Sensory Science is vital in helping your company in many ways.

  • Understanding what is important for your consumer – nutrition/aging/low carb/keto/low salt/low sugar/nutraceuticals/self-care/medical/environmental/sustainability issues – these are all issues that the consumer currently cares about.
  • While the nutritional profile and health benefits of converging products are important to consumers, expectations around packaging functionality, colour, texture, mouthfeel, swallowing etc. should never be overlooked and must be embedded at the outset of the innovation cycle.
  • Taking on the challenge of developing products for new categories and opportunities, such as plant-based, VMS/ dietary supplements, OTC, nutricosmetics, functional foods and the pharmaceutical industry, the consumer must never be forgotten. Make your product development consumer-centric and leverage on their experience, as well as their inexperience.
  • Stay at the cutting edge of NPD, develop successful products and capture those elusive gaps in the market. Give consumers what they want, give them what they need and even give them what they didn’t even realise they wanted or needed.
  • Add business value by focusing on strategic questions like:
    • How can you develop products that support your core values?
    • How can you grow your product range to attract and excite new audiences?
    • How can you strengthen your brand through a deeper connection with consumers?
    • How can you engage with the consumer to help you to produce products that are outstanding, superb, distinct, and have exceptional quality and appeal?

At the very least, making sure that the product tastes and looks good, combined with understanding consumers’ reactions to the sensory aspects of the product can only help to increase the likelihood of repeat purchase and a successful product.

We know that product development can be a slow and tedious journey that offers no promise of a successful ending and anything you can do to stay on the right track is a step towards success. The sensory properties of your products must be understood by you and must be liked and preferred by consumers to encourage repeat purchase and ultimately gain market success.

Sensory Science Process Chart

We can help you empower your innovation and elevate your products by providing you with the tools to do this.

Would you like to unlock the power and potential that effective Sensory Science can bring to your business to gain success in the market?

If so, please contact Raphaëlle at [email protected] to discuss how we can help you and your team to develop and launch successful consumer-centric products with a differentiated value proposition and unique sensory experience.


iNewtrition is an Innovation as a Service (IaaS) agency for the functional food & beverage, and health & wellness industries. We provide agile customer solutions, end-to-end support, or can simply help you overcome specific bottlenecks to fast track innovation and product development. The services and expertise we offer are on-demand and available to you instantly via our online booking platform. Our skills combined cover every step of your innovation journey, from feasibility study, product design or development, to post-launch scale-up. Contact Raphaelle at [email protected] to start your journey.

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