Ingredients for successful taste tests: Supporting your primary market researchPublished by Mark Bodnar
A couple of our classes are going to be doing some primary consumer/market research this term in which they design and conduct taste tests.
It's rare that I get a chance to blog about our many resources aimed at supporting primary research, so I thought I'd use this topic as an opportunity to riff a bit about the cool stuff available. Even if your primary research has nothing to do with taste tests, you might find the following resources and search techniques useful.
1. Let's start with one of the odder resources: Marketing Scales Handbooks.
Imagine for a second that you needed to ask your taste testers some questions and have them rank their answers on a scale (e..g, "On a scale of 1-7 where 7 equals "Heck, yes!", tell us how likely you would be to offer this banana bread to your grandmother.").
You could, of course, come up with your own questions/scales -- and hope that they are unambiguous and not misleading, etc., or you could make use of the experience of the generations of researchers who have come before you.
That is... you could check to see if a scale/question has already been created and used in academic research, and you could find out whether that scale ended up getting the results it was aiming for. That's what the Marketing Scales Handbook series offers: the author has gone through major consumer/marketing journals for decades and extracted many of the scales, then listed each scale by topic, complete with details on their psychometric quality.
Still with me? Great! So the short version is that if you need a scale (question with some form of a ranked answer) to measure things such as "Taste Evaluation" or "Product Evaluation (Food)", then these handbooks are for you.
SFU Library provides online access to volumes 4-10 of the MSH series, and we have volumes 1-4 in print format. Sadly, you really do need to scan each volume as they report scales used in different years (e.g., Volume 10 covers studies published in 2016-2017), but that's still easier than going through thousands of studies!
2. Speaking of thousands of studies... PsycTESTS can also save you time & effort as you seek pre-written questions for your study.
As discussed above, there's a good chance that other researchers have already developed and tested questionnaires to measure something close to what you are studying. Where the MSH series allows you to drill down to the level of specific questions on your topic, PsycTESTS is more focused on complete questionnaires. Need a Taste Preferences Measure, a Taste Preference Task, or a Genetically Modified Banana Survey? Or, more broadly, how about a Consumer Test used in a study on hamburgers? Start with PsycTESTS!
3. But what about Business Source Complete!?
Of course Business Source Complete has much to offer as well! Frequent BUEC Buzz readers will know that BSC is our go-to place for all aspects of business research. In this case, academic research articles can help in a few ways...
Both the methodology details and the results of such research articles could be useful for your study:
- Do they define their variables in a way that will work for you?
- Do they use an imaginative study technique that you could replicate/repurpose?
- Do they bring up other factors that you could be considering as part of your predictions. (For example, do cultural or visual cues play a role in taste tests?)
- Do they document methodological pitfalls to be aware of?
Here are a few examples of articles that I found using terms such as "Consumers' preferences" "Food preferences" and "Taste" in BSC:
- Latour, K. A., Latour, M. S., & Wansink, B. (2018). The Impact of Supertasters On Taste Test and Marketing Outcomes: How an Innate Characteristic Shapes Taste, Preference, Experience, and Behavior. Journal of Advertising Research, 58(2), 240–254. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.2501/JAR-2017-030
- Breneiser, J. E., & Allen, S. N. (2011). Taste Preference for Brand Name versus Store Brand Sodas. North American Journal Of Psychology, 13(2), 281-290.
- Hung-Ming, L., Chien-HUuang, L., & Hui-Hsi, H. (2015). Influence of Chopstick Size on Taste Evaluations. Psychological Reports, 116(2), 381-387. doi:10.2466/31.PR0.116k21w2
- Hansen, H. (2014). Informational Cascades, Herding Bias, and Food Taste Evaluations. Journal Of Food Products Marketing, 20(1), 1-16. doi:10.1080/10454446.2012.726945
4. And, since marketing is partly a psychological field, it's always good to check PsycInfo as well.
(In fact, two of the four articles listed above from BSC are in Psychology journals.) Start with this search for Taste Perception and Consumer (in the Subject field). That should uncover articles such as:
- Carvalho, F. M., & Spence, C. (2019). Cup colour influences consumers’ expectations and experience on tasting specialty coffee. Food Quality and Preference, 75, 157–169. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1016/j.foodqual.2019.03.001
- Gotow, N., Moritani, A., Hayakawa, Y., Akutagawa, A., Hashimoto, H., & Kobayakawa, T. (2015). High consumption increases sensitivity to after-flavor of canned coffee beverages. Food Quality And Preference, 44162-171. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2015.04.007
- Gutiérrez‐Salomón, A. L., Gámbaro, A., & Angulo, O. (2014). Influence of sample presentation protocol on the results of consumer tests. Journal Of Sensory Studies, 29(3), 219-232. doi:10.1111/joss.12097
** A good example of an article that could help you plan your methodology!
- Sörqvist, P., Marsh, J. E., Holmgren, M., Hulme, R., Haga, A., & Seager, P. B. (2016). Effects of labeling a product eco-friendly and genetically modified: A cross-cultural comparison for estimates of taste, willingness to pay and health consequences. Food Quality And Preference, 5065-70. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2016.01.007
** Interesting to see what effect the labelling plays on taste.
5. OK, but libraries are full of books, too -- are they there just to keep the building from floating away?
The books and ebooks in our collection tend to be on broader topics such as Marketing Research - Methodology or Consumers - Research. Even those books may help you understand how to analyze your data or frame your questions, but you may want to start by reading this ebook, which, despite the title, is actually almost completely about taste tests: The sense and nonsense of consumer product testing :how to identify whether consumers are blindly loyal? (See the table of contents of this ebook to the right.)
A few more ebooks that came up in my initial searches:
- Mouthfeel : How texture makes taste / Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk ; translated and adapted by Mariela Johansen. (Arts and traditions of the table).
- Sensory and aroma marketing / Edited by: Esther Sendra and Ángel A. Carbonell-Barrachina.
- Handbook for Sensory and Consumer-Driven New Product Development - Innovative Technologies for the Food and Beverage Industry / Maurice G. O'Sullivan.
6. Framing the question
Research doesn't happen in a vacuum. You will, of course, need to understand what other academics have done in the area (see all of the above), but you'll probably also want to see what else is known about the types of consumers, brands, and product types being studied... information that will help you understand where the gaps are and where your research fits.
You may already know that Passport offers country-level brandshare rankings and detailed data on consumption of many fast-moving consumer goods, but did you know that they also provide "analysis by flavour" and "ingredients by product" information for many foods? Try looking for the Ice Cream in Canada report or for the statistics available from an "ice cream" canada search.
b. Ipsos News Centre
This one is a bit hit-or-miss, but you may be able to find a detailed demographic breakdown of, for example, Canadian coffee & tea drinkers or PB&J eaters... plus you'll see the exact wording of the questions Ipsos used in their surveys -- yet another place to look for samples you can build on! Be sure to scroll to the bottom of any study summary you find to see if there is a link to Detailed Tables or a Full Report.
Sample IPSOS study: Food for thought: Would you like real or fake meat with that?
c. SimplyAnalytics Canada
Did you run your study in a specific local neighbourhood or city? Then you could use SimplyAnalytics to gather the corresponding census profile for comparison to your sample -- with data from either the most recent Statistics Canada census or from more recent Environics estimates.
d. Institutional Research & Planning
Ah -- but maybe you did your taste test at a table in a hallway at SFU. If you need the demographics of SFU students, then the IRP office is the absolute best (and maybe only) place to start! Try their Fingertip Statistics section first, but also try the Students, Department Profiles, and Enrollment sections.
Do you need the demographics of people in Canada who report consuming specific products and brands? And would you like to know what other products/brands those same people consume? Vividata is your source! It's a complex database to use, so be sure to use both the Intro and Advanced guides -- you'll see links to those guides on your way into the database.
Enough? If not, ask!
Business & Economics Librarian