Ingredients for successful taste tests + other primary market researchPublished by Mark Bodnar
One of this fall's BUS 345 sections (D100) is going to be conducting some taste test experiments as they learn about primary market research. As is often the case, I see their assignment as an opportunity to highlight some powerful research resources available for all SFU researchers while also helping the BUS 345 students.
If you're in BUS 345 and doing a taste test assignment, start here for time-saving tips. If, on the other hand, you are doing any other sort of primary market research, still start here because there's a good chance these tips apply to your work as well.
1. Marketing Scales Handbooks & PsycTESTS to identify tried & tested questions
When you are running taste tests — or many other types of consumer research — you often need to ask people questions about their opinions, experiences, desires, and behaviours. Writing such questions is one of those tasks that seems simple at first, but can go badly wrong in many ways: if your questions aren't absolutely unambiguous and focused, your results may be nonsense, and your efforts may be wasted.
Fortunately, other researchers with deep experience and expertise have developed, tested, and used questions to measure similar things, and you can build on their work (with proper citations, of course!). Research is all about incrementally (and ethically) building on the work of others to acquire new knowledge.
But wait! There's more good news: other researchers have collected questions and surveys used in major journals and made them searchable, AND your friendly SFU Librarians have purchased those sources, AND I wrote a blog post all about them just a few weeks ago! Check it out: Don't reinvent the wheel: start with these sources when creating a new survey!
2. Business Source Complete to find similar studies you can learn from
Just as you need to build on examples of study questions that others have developed, you can also get a head start on designing the rest of your study by reviewing past studies on similar topics or involving similar groups of consumers.
Both the methodology details and the results of past research articles might have useful lessons that you could apply in your own research:
- Do they define their variables in a way that might 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?
Business Source Complete (BSC) covers hundreds of scholarly business journals, including most major marketing journals. Here are a few examples of articles that I found using terms such as "Consumers' preferences" "Food preferences" and "Taste" in BSC:
- Hildebrand, D., Rubin, D., Hadi, R., & Kramer, T. (2021). Flavor Fatigue: Cognitive Depletion Influences Consumer Enjoyment of Complex Flavors. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 31(1), 103–111. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1002/jcpy.1167
- Vargas-Bello-Pérez, E., Tajonar, K., Foggi, G., Mele, M., Simitzis, P., Mavrommatis, A., Tsiplakou, E., Habib, M. R., Gonzalez-Ronquillo, M., & Toro-Mujica, P. (2022). Consumer attitudes toward dairy products from sheep and goats: A cross-continental perspective. Journal of Dairy Science, 105(11), 8718–8733. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.3168/jds.2022-21894
- 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
- Hung-Ming, L., Chien-Huang, 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
3. And, since marketing is partly a psychological field, it's always good to check PsycInfo as well.
Start with this search for Taste Perception and Consumer (in the Subject field). That should uncover articles such as:
- Jaud, D. A., Braconnot, A. R., & Lunardo, R. (2023). Do stories (always) make food products taste better? The boundary effects of matching package type and product dimension. Journal of Consumer Behaviour. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1002/cb.2207 [Online First article, hence no volume & issue numbers yet.]
- Lahne, J., Trubek, A. B., & Pelchat, M. L. (2014). Consumer sensory perception of cheese depends on context: A study using comment analysis and linear mixed models. Food Quality and Preference, 32(Pt C), 184–197. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1016/j.foodqual.2013.10.007
- 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, 44, 162–171. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1016/j.foodqual.2015.04.007
- Drake, S. L., Yates, M. D., & Drake, M. A. (2010). Development of a flavor lexicon for processed and imitation cheeses. Journal of Sensory Studies, 25(5), 720–739. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1111/j.1745-459X.2010.00300.x
- Gutiérrez, S. 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. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/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, 50, 65–70. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1016/j.foodqual.2016.01.007
** Interesting to see what effect the labelling plays on taste.
4. 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?
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
- Sensory evaluation practices / Herbert Stone, Rebecca N. Bleibaum and Heather A. Thomas
- Sensory food preferences : an analysis of consumer behaviour using organic food as an example / Sarah Hemmerling
- Sensory and aroma marketing / Edited by: Esther Sendra and Ángel A. Carbonell-Barrachina
- Rapid sensory profiling techniques : applications in new product development and consumer research / Julien Delarue, J. Ben Lawlor
- Handbook for sensory and consumer-driven new product development - innovative technologies for the food and beverage industry / Maurice G. O'Sullivan
5. Framing the research: what do we know already and therefore not need to spend resources studying further?
Research doesn't happen in a vacuum. You will, of course, need to understand what other academics have done on your specific topic (see all of the above), but you'll probably also want to see what else is known about the types of consumers, brands, and products being studied... information that will help you understand where the gaps are and what your research might add to the overall picture.
With its focus on fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), Passport is a perfect place to look up brandshares, consumer trends, and sales trends for the food products you'll be testing. Try looking for the Ice Cream in Canada report or for the statistics available from an "ice cream" canada search to get a sense of what Passport offers. Bonus: did you know that Passport also provides "analysis by flavour" and "ingredients by product" information for some foods?
b. Ipsos, Angus Reid, Research Co. and other public opinion polling firms
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 may see the exact wording of the questions polling companies have 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.
Samples of public opinion polling studies:
- How brands can help consumers cope with the coronacoaster
- Food for thought: Would you like real or fake meat with that?
- Meatless Millennials: Younger Canadians feeding growth of plant-based meat substitutes
- Young Canadians Willing to Pay More for Organic, Non-GMO Food
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 Enrolments sections.
Do you need the demographics of people in Canada who report consuming specific product types? And would you like to know what other products those same people consume, leisure activities they indulge in, and opinions they hold? 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! We're here to help...
Business & Economics Librarian