Comparing products for NPD and market success
By Amber Bradbury -
Changing a product’s recipe, process, shelf-life or packaging can be a daunting task. What impact will
the change have on the product’s appeal? Will consumers still enjoy it? It’s not unusual to ask these
questions, and the only way to get a definitive answer is to test it.
Relative profiling is an exciting (and fairly new) tool that helps food and drink manufacturers minimise
the risks associated with product changes. It works by using a highly trained food tasting panel, who
describe the key sensory characteristics (appearance, odour, flavour, texture and aftertaste/mouthfeel) of a
test sample(s) against a control sample. The panel then score the intensity of each sensory characteristic
of the test sample(s) in comparison to the control to reveal any differences.
Manufacturers commonly use this tool to:
- compare prototype recipes against current recipes - e.g. for ingredient additions or reformulations
- determine the effect of a change in process or packaging on a product
- monitor changes in a product over its shelf-life compared to a start-of-life sample, and
- assess a product against a competitor or multiple competitors.
Relative profiling has diverse applications to support food and drink manufacturers, as the following
Case study one: sugar reduction
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the negative health impacts associated with excessive sugar
consumption. We were approached by a manufacturer of a lasagne product looking to reduce the sugar in
their product. The manufacturer produced five test samples each containing a different sugar replacement
but needed to know whether they had a similar flavour sensory profile to their current lasagne recipe. We used
relative profiling to identify one of the sugar-reduced lasagne samples as having a similar flavour profile to
the current recipe. Therefore, the manufacturer could release the healthier version to the market with no
noticeable difference in flavour.
Case study two: picking a prototype
A manufacturer recently approached us looking to assess a cake bar that could be stored at ambient
temperature. The company wanted a sensory profile comparable to their existing chilled product, but with
the benefits associated with ambient, i.e., more practical storage and transport options. We used
relative profiling to compare two prototype cake bar samples, identifying the one most similar to the original
in terms of its overall sensory profile.
Other applications of relative profiling
Assessing new equipment
Relative profiling allowed a manufacturer to compare a meat product that had been marinated using a new
piece of equipment (that aimed to reduce marination time) against the standard approach of marinating
meat in the fridge. The results provided the manufacturer with an understanding of the effectiveness of
their new marination method.
Monitoring product changes over shelf-life
One of our clients received complaints of their ready meal product changing flavour over time. Relative
profiling was used to conclude that the product increased in sweetness as it aged. The results allowed
the manufacturer to redevelop its recipe to prevent this issue.
As a rapid, reliable and cost-effective method that generates quantifiable outputs, relative profiling is
a test with wide ranging applications that can support the industry in a number of scenarios. Get in
touch to find out how it can help you and your product development.
What we can do for you
We can use relative profiling to increase the chances of your new products being a market success. Get in
touch to find out how.
This article was first published in Food Spark.