Sensory

More than a taste test

Kerry’s global sensory teams are an invaluable resource for ensuring our customers deliver great-tasting and nutritious products. At Kerry, sensory is more than just a taste test.

Our sensory teams focus on gaining a holistic understanding of the role human sensory perception plays in food and beverage preference. They then work closely with our customers and internal product development teams to provide guidance for product optimisation and new product development – ensuring that when foods and beverages enter the marketplace, consumers’ expectations will be surpassed.

Taste perception

Taste continues to be the number one purchase driver of foods and beverages globally.

Yet, all consumers perceive taste differently, creating a unique challenge – or opportunity – for manufacturers to develop products that will have mass appeal and be successful in the marketplace. 

Taste perception is complex and is affected by a number of factors – some directly related to the foods and beverages being consumed including taste, texture and aroma, and others that are more consumer-focused such as personal background, experiences and emotions.

Kerry’s foundational understanding of sensory science and consumer behaviour guides the development of our Taste and Nutrition solutions and provides our customers with directional guidance for new product development. And, during the product development phase, our sensory teams work side-by-side with our culinary and R&D teams to ensure that the foods and beverages being produced meet the specific preferences of our customers’ target consumers. 

Methodology

Kerry’s mission is to delight and nourish consumers across to the globe and our sensory teams play a key role in our ability to deliver against that mission.

Sensory is a science based on physiology, mathematics and biology, and the work of our sensory teams is used to provide valid, reliable and unbiased information that can be used to guide product development. Leveraging consumers and trained panellists, we use traditional sensory methods along with proprietary tools to deliver strategic insights that allow our customers to make good business decisions and even better products.

Some of the traditional testing methods employed by our sensory teams include descriptive analysis, discrimination testing, affective (consumer) testing and fuzzy front-end testing.

Descriptive analysis characterises and quantifies the various sensory properties of a product. Kerry uses this method for:

  • understanding product differences
  • product innovation
  • competitive product evaluations
  • quality control

Discrimination testing is used to determine if perceivable differences or similarities exist between products. Kerry uses this method to:

  • evaluate whether or not changes to product formulation or processing changes will be noticeable by consumers
  • match against “gold standard” and/or competitive products
  • confirm shelf-life guarantees

Affective (consumer) testing uses consumers to express their opinions about products, including opinions on flavour profiles, texture and mouthfeel, aroma, product packaging and more. Common affective testing methods employed by Kerry include:

  • concept screening
  • consumption studies
  • home use studies

Fuzzy front-end testing is used to identify new product innovation opportunities. Kerry uses this method to brainstorm new product concepts by capturing qualitative data through tactics such as:

  • surveys
  • focus groups
  • ideation sessions

Sensory innovation

Our global sensory team is skilled in providing the scientific and objective information that informs sound business decision making.

Change is constant and fast-paced in the food and beverage industry. Our team of highly skilled sensory scientists continually helps Kerry and our customers understand consumers, their preferences and what motivates their purchase decisions.

In addition to using traditional sensory practices, Kerry is investing in new, novel methods using the latest technology such as virtual reality, and immersion techniques that allow us to understand how products are perceived differently when experienced in multiple environments.

Our internal teams are complemented by a network of professional institutions such as Monell and other leading universities and our Technical Expert Advisory Council, which is composed of sensory and consumer science experts who provide an external lens into the challenges that affect the food and beverage industry.

Global testing

Kerry’s sensory expertise is underpinned by a global infrastructure of highly qualified sensory scientists, trained Kerry panellists and dedicated sensory facilities in 14 locations. 

Each year, approximately 2,500 sensory exercises are performed within Kerry’s facilities worldwide, ensuring that our customers are able to deliver great-tasting products that are preferred by their target consumers.

Our state-of-the-art sensory booths, fully equipped kitchens and interactive customer and viewing suites allow us to help our customers identify innovation and product development opportunities and validate their commercial viability with trained panellists and consumers.