Consumer panels for product testing

Product benchmarking provides independent assessment of products from an informed consumer perspective. It is also successfully used to screen product concepts indentifying the best product for development.

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My name is Janetta Highlands and I work here at Camden BRI as market insights Manager. I'm now going to show you some first-class facilities which we use here at Camden BRI and I'm going to explain the principles of consumer testing.

We have a large database of consumers from varying socio-economic groups, all criteria for each test are set up by the clients and the appropriate consumers are selected. Most communication is carried out electronically however, from time to time it is necessary to contact consumers by telephone.

The products are logged in to ensure full traceability, each product is given its own unique sample login number. All details from receipt to disposal are documented. All consumers are required to fill out a consent form which asks about any food allergies and basic health questions, as each test is different all consumers are briefed prior to each session. The consumers are reminded that there are no right or wrong answers.

Simple instructions are given on how to use the booths, we also explain the purpose of the test. We usually use north lighting however, we can use coloured filters and the colour and intensity can be set as required. Each product is passed from the preparation area through the hatch and into the booth the consumer follows the instructions on screen and enters the data as prompted. Each booth contains filtered water and water biscuits to cleanse the palate between samples. At the end of the test the consumer is prompted to press the light switch which indicates to the kitchen staff that they have finished.

Products vary dramatically from single component foods, such as a fruit juice, towards multi-component, such as a ready meal. A controlled quantity of each sample is given at all times. The food preparation area is surrounded by the test booths. Samples are prepared as per first on pack instruction, always directed by the supplier. All products are given a randomised three-digit code so that they are tested anonymously.

A red light signals to the kitchen staff that consumers are ready for the next sample. Each time a product is passed through to the consumer they are reminded to check their three-digit code with that on their screen. The kitchen staff work to a pre-arranged schedule so that samples are presented to the consumers in a randomised order, this helps to further reduce any bias within the test. Data entered by the consumer is collated by our software for analysis and reporting, the calculations are checked and interpretations are made and reports are then issued to the client.

We have a long track record of working with retailers and suppliers, all tests can be modelled to meet the client's needs and expertise is always available to guide and advise clients on best sensory practice. If you are interested in any of our bespoke testing services please get in touch.

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