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Sensory triangle testing (discrimination test)

Triangle testing is one of the most commonly used sensory discrimination test methods. It is used to determine whether the consumer can detect a difference between two similar products - perhaps following a change in formulation or in processing conditions, or to see if some external factor (e.g. potential taint) has had an effect on a product.

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This video introduces one of the most commonly used sensory discrimination methods: The Triangle Test. We conduct this test on a regular basis on a wide range of food and drink products, using our in house trained panel of assessors.

Non–food products can also be tested for their potential to taint such as disinfectants and packaging.

All tests are conducted under controlled test conditions: air, lighting, temperature, neutral decor. Care is taken to ensure that each product sample is prepared and presented in a standardised and consistent manner to ensure that no sources of bias are introduced which could have a negative impact on the end test result.

The triangle test is principally used to determine whether a sensory difference exists between two products. For example to test whether a change to a product's ingredient, process or packaging has had an impact on it's overall sensory properties.

Samples are prepared in the test kitchen following the clients preparation instructions or normal culinary procedures. Each sample is presented in identical containers and coded using 3 digit codes, following a balanced experimental test design. Each sample is evaluated following a standardised tasting protocol.

To conduct the test; the assessors compare the test product against a control product. Each assessor is presented with three samples (two are the same and one is different) and asked to evaluate the samples from left to right, select the "different" sample and describe the difference perceived.

Assessors are instructed to use palate cleansers such as bottled or filtered water and plain crackers to clean the palate between samples to minimise flavour carry–over.

Each assessor is asked to select a sample even if they think there is no difference between the samples. The assessors are allowed to state that their answer was a guess in the comments section.

The number of correct answers/judgements are counted and compared against statistical tables to verify whether it can be concluded that a statistically significant difference exists between the two samples.

The correct comments are also reported along with any notable trends/patterns identified in the data.

If you would like to find out more about the Sensory Triangle Test, please contact the Sensory Services section for further details.