Food packaging

Five things to get right when making a sensory claim

By Sarah Thomas - 15 February 2018

"Packaging has become a marketing tool in its own right which can be utilised to 'break through' the 'competitive clutter' when being viewed in a supermarket setting, with the intention to engage and connect with the consumer"1. It is becoming increasingly important for producers to differentiate their products in a way that will provide a competitive advantage and entice consumers to purchase their product. One such way is to substantiate a sensory claim in relation to a product attribute such as "crunchy", or through superiority claims in relation to a competitor such as "brand Y is liked better than brand X".

Although sensory claims are not yet extensively regulated in the UK, stating a claim in relation to a unique sensory aspect of a product or a key competitor may have a detrimental impact on a business if the claim cannot be supported by robust scientific research.

The following tips will help you to understand how to successfully substantiate a sensory superiority claim2:

1. Respondent characteristics

Claims testing should only be carried out with people that actually buy and use the product because claims refer to a products performance or liking.

2. Locations

Claim testing should be conducted in a minimum of two different geographical locations, i.e. not within the same region to ensure that a claim is representative of the market. It would be beneficial to conduct the research in three locations to ensure that the assessment is nationally representative.

3. Respondent sample size

As a general rule, the more respondents that complete the test, the more likely you are to find a statistically significant difference between the samples. The number of respondents needed for the test will depend on the type of claim and the data collection method.

4. Types of questions

In order to reduce any bias or manipulation of participants' thoughts, the questions should be limited to the claim being made. The test should not be used to double as a product evaluation. For example, if you’re testing a superiority claim on two samples, then only a preference question should be asked to determine which product respondents prefer.

5. Products

The products included in a claim test should be of the same category to ensure that the products are comparable. For each of the products being assessed, the purchase location, date and eventual use by date should be consistent to reduce the batch variability.

To find out more information about claim testing, contact

Sarah Thomas, Innovation and Insights Section Manager
+44(0)1386 842254

Sarah Thomas

About Sarah Thomas

Sarah is an experienced consumer insights practitioner, whose background in qualitative research provides a skill set that is sensitive to understanding the complexities of individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

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1 Underwood, et al. 2001. Packaging communication: Attentional effects of product imagery. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 10, 403-22.
Rundh, B. 2005. The Multi-faceted Dimension of Packaging. Marketing Logistic or Marketing Tool? British Food Journal, 107, 670-684.
Ambrose, G. and Harris, P. 2011. Packaging the Brand: The relationship between packaging design and brand identity. AVA Publishing SA.
Agariya, A. et al. 2012. The Role of Packaging in Brand Communication. International Journal of Science & Engineering Research, 3, 1-13.

2 ASTM Standard E1958 – 16, "Standard Guide for Sensory Claim Substantiation", ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2016,

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