by Mary Ellen Kuhn
Understanding how consumers respond emotionally to a product is a potentially important addition to the sensory evaluation process, according to speakers in Session 123, “Using Emotions in Research to Deliver Great Products to Market—Part 1.” The session was held Monday morning, June 13, at the 2011 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo.
Assessing consumers’ emotional response to a proposed product reformulation provided important insights—and helped Kraft Foods shift gears on a reformulation initiative, according to Melissa Knorr of the Kraft Foods Department of Consumer Sciences.
“I believe that traditional research tools may no longer be enough to answer all of our research questions,” said Knorr.
Working with her team on a product reformulation, initial sensory testing exercises indicated that the reformulated product was scoring well with consumers in terms of overall liking. But adding emotional profiling to the evaluation process prompted the Kraft consumer sciences team to tweak the reformulation.
“Emotional profiling gave us critical direction,” said Knorr. “Traditional tools were not enough for this situation. … We had to go beyond liking to gain critical insights.”
“Traditional research may be adequate for many situations,” she summarized. “But enhanced research may be necessary if you’ve changed the product in a way that you are putting it into a new sensory space.”
In such cases like this, “you may want to consider adding emotional profiling to your standard research approach,” she said, adding that emotional profiling can help provide a “holistic consumer experience.”
Presenter Silvia King, Distinguished Scientist with McCormick & Co., indicated in the session that she too is finding value in adding emotional evaluation to the sensory evaluation process.
“Emotion testing is still a relatively new approach in sensory and consumer science,” King observed, adding that, “I think we may get to a point where we start identifying best practices.”
Presenter Shane Skillen, Founder and CEO, Hotspex, a company focused on delivering insights into consumer behavior, shared information about the way that emotions affect consumer behavior. “We use our emotions to filter what enters into our consciousness,” he explained, adding that, “our emotions determine what we remember.”
Hotspex has quantified the relationship between rational and emotional impulses for more than 100 companies and their brands. On average, 50% of consumers demonstrate a rational response and 50% an emotional one, but it varies by brand and product.
“Consider emotion when doing your R&D,” Skillen summarized. “Without such a consideration, you’re literally missing half the equation,” he said.