Our know-how

What to think of before launching your sensory market research

Sensory research requires the screener to be:

  • Selective on the previous experience of the volunteers. They have to be able to be sensitive to the product.
  • Right in the target to reach with understood and known bias
  • Run a discrimination test: the consumer was not qualified as a product user, the consumer was not qualified based on sensory skills (analytical testing), the consumer was not representative of the target population
  • Defining the target consumer or test participant is necessary to ensure the integrity of the test. Unfortunately, business decisions are often based on results obtained from an erroneous test population.

Understanding the bias and context:

  • In some cases, products or services are innately linked with specific logos and other specificities. For instance, chocolates, Oreo cookies, running shoes, and that limits the effectiveness of sensory research
  • Standardize (harmonize) the answers. Senses and emotions are expressed very  differently for various people. For this reason, when screening, we ask a series of questions to understand the sensitivity of the person and her or his sophistication of:  sensory assessment, vocabulary and ability to express feelings, environment and mood.
  • Design an hedonic scale

Understanding the environment through Social Identity, IoT (Internet of things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence)

  • Browsing the social identity and profiles of candidates is helping in the assessment of their ability to express their feelings and sensation
  • Connecting the research with devices that give information on the environment they live in is a useful tool to contextualize (how dry or humid the air is in their environment, how sweet the food they eat is, what they listen in terms of music etc)
  • AI can help automatically screen and understand who the person is and in which environment he or she evolves.
  • For visual assessment and in specific contexts, VR has been used and can be used (packaging research especially or interior design)


On site facility

Having a well designed on site facility is important because it minimize the impact of non-test variables. 

A proper research area will have:

  • room seperations to minimize visual contact between subjects
  • environmental & lighting controls
  • separate prep area
  • audio recording devices


Linking drivers, deal-breakers, effectiveness and visual perception

Product profile exploring

  • What are the characteristics of the most stuitable cream products for Chinese customers?

Product sensory feedback

  • How do you feel right after you apply the product? (Fresh, relaxed, energized, soothing, etc)
  • What sensory features of day cream products do Chinese customers prefer in the day cream market?

Products’ image perception

  • How do Chinese customers see and perceive the products?
  • What do Chinese customers think about the existing offers and substitutes?
  • European image VS American VS Chinese and dimensions of the image. Ranking of the dimensions.
  • Which features embody the brand / characteristics of the brand?

Product effectiveness feedback

  • What kind of improvement on your skin you experienced after using the product?
  • What features and aspects of the products (texture, odor, pricing, promotions and advertising) do Chinese customers prefer in the day cream market?


  • What are the main influencing factors for the choice of day cream products in China?

Product sensory feedback

  • How do you feel right after you apply the product? (Fresh, relaxed, energized, soothing, etc)
  • What sensory features of day cream products do Chinese customers prefer in the day cream market?


  • What are the main influencing factors for the choice of day cream products in China?
  • Ranking of product features (texture, packaging, odor, etc) for product liking



Quantitative analysis for sensory research in China

In order to provide accurate data and avoid errors when calculating, Daxue will follow strict data analysis procedure.  Nonparametric statistics would be used to analyze data to avoid data false impression, particularly of the distribution of the data is bimodal (JAR scales deliverables). The data analysis steps will include:

  • The data will be summarized in a table showing rank order for each assessors. Then, rank order will be summed and divided by the number of samples tied for that position. For example:  in a four product ranking test, if samples are ranked as first, second and tied for third (most intense), the rank order of the two tied samples is (3=4)/2 =3.5; rank orders would be entered as 1,2,3.5 and 3.5.
  • The larger number of responses for one sample (variety) will be compared to statistical table. The table states the minimum number of responses required before a significant difference can be concluded from the test;
  • The rank orders are summed to produce rank sums for each product. Then, we would calculate the Friedman statistic (T).  The T statistics shows that a significant difference exists between samples.
  • If  the calculated T statistic exceeds the critical value (defined through statistical tables), Fishers LSRD will be calculated to determine which samples are significantly different.
  • Pyhon, R, SPSS, Excel software would be used to analyze the data.

The client would be provided with analyzed research findings. They would include:

  • 1.The most liked attributes (ranking)
  • 2.The most liked varieties (ranking)
  • 3.Perception triangulation (influence of one attribute (e.g. sourness) to another (e.g. crunchiness) : charts + analysis


Treatment of the sensory research

Daxue’s research team will analyzes step 1 and 2 findings in collaboration with a sensory food testing specialist. By doing so, qualitative findings will be cleaned and evaluated from scientific point of view to design an appropriate sensory testing scenario and measurement scales.

Before setting up the sensory test, Daxue’s research team has to address the following questions:

  • Are there any repeatable attributes?
  • Are any attributes that were perceived, but were not expressed by consumers (focus group video tape analysis)?
  • How to formulate post-testing questionnaires so that consumers perception will not  be influenced ?
  • How to pair  samples so that influence of one sample on another was reduced or eluded?
  • In-depth consultation with an appropriate specialist about gustatory perception process will allow: to understand physiological and physiological factors affecting taste perception, to define final details of testing facilities (testing room, plates, cleansers, sample presentation order, etc.), to validate tests’ questionnaires and scales.
  • The client’s representatives could participate in discussions to approve and agree on chosen sensory testing design and procedure.


Focus group

In order to design appropriate sensory testing scales, Daxue consulting advises to conduct focus groups discussions with the clients’s consumers. Following desk research findings, our team would already have initial hypotheses about the type of information that would evolve from focus group. Workshop discussions aim to highlight attributes that consumers pay attention to and general trends in responses.

Focus groups as a part of sensory research projects don’t deliver quantitative, statistical measured data about the product, but crucial for understanding of consumers’ perception through direct interaction with them during consumption of blueberries. Consumers tests would not be meaningful from the very beginning if assessors are directed to particular attributes that may not be important or even perceived in the product.

Daxue consulting will conduct 3 workshop discussion sessions (2hours/session) with consumers. The client’s representatives could supervise the process through two-way mirror. The discussions will be recorded by audio and video tape.

Each focus group should have 8 – 10 people in order to maximize the information gathering opportunity. Due to small sample size, the results would not be generalize to the larger populations, but will give us essential qualitative data for the following sensory testing.

Focus groups’ findings will be supported with secondary resources (social listening) results, and, then, will be summarized and analyzed by Daxue’s research team and a sensory specialist (food segment) to verify sensory test methodologies and questionnaires.

Our approach to conduct sensory focus groups:

Trained moderate will be used to get insights and not to miss consumers’ feedbacks

Discussion guideline will be prepared to assure smooth, but right to the point session

All of participants’ observations , comments and reactions will be recorded.



Different research strategies

Daxens applies different sensory testing methods to achieve the research objectives. Depend on clients’ needs it could be objective (provide objective data on sensory properties of product and carried out by trained assessors) or subjective (provide subjective data on acceptability, liking or preference, and are carried out by untrained assessors) sensory tests.

  • Objective tests require qualified assessors panel. All potential participants have to be screened prior to final selection for the panel. The screening process determines that individuals satisfy minimum criteria for selection. Sensory panel could require naïve assessors (untrained sensory panel, consumers) or trained panel which satisfy criteria for sensory acuity.
  • Subjective tests (affective or consumer tests) don’t require pre-testing training or strict screening process. Subjective tests assess consumers’ responses to a product using both qualitative (e.g. focus groups) and quantitative (e.g. preference tests, hedonic rate) methodologies.
  • Both types of tests require the completion of some form questionnaire. At this stage, Daxue involves an appropriate specialist to make sure that questions meet the research objectives, don’t duplicate each other, and wording doesn’t influence assessors’ responses.
  • Samples coding are required. Daxue’ sensory research projects are conducted with a deep understanding of Chinese culture. For example, when coding samples we avoid using number “4”, since it is homophonous to the word “death” and could lead to a lower score, or numbers “6” and “8” are considered lucky numbers in China, therefore could lead to a higher score.
  • Prior the testing, all questionnaires should be piloted. Pilot test will be carried out several days in advance of real testing session. It would require a sample size of 3-5 volunteers (could be representative sample of individuals or coworkers)


Pilot test

Daxens methodologies rely on pilot test because it is a cruical step in order to avoid mistakes down the road:

  • Pilot test will be carried out 5 days in advance of each round of real testing session. Each pilot test will have a sample of 3-5 volunteers (total of 15-25 people).
  • This small scale preliminary study is conducted to evaluate feasibility, time and the effectiveness of the questionnaire (in terms of wording and comprehensiveness of the questionnaire). It should be used in order to improve upon the actual study design and prior to execution of the full-scale research.


Briefing of the panel

Brief every selected volunteer about the usage of the product and the date that they have to complete the questionnaire.

Brief them how to film and upload a video every day proofing them applying the product in a daily basis. The data collection made online is run in order to ensure candidates have applied the cream. It is not used to answer the questions of the questionnaire.


How to prepare your sensory research

Chinese people are highly involved into online activities, and used to share their experience online on different social platforms.

Before digging in, Daxens research team will explore online discussions toward the product (berries) in order to understand how they respond to the product. It is crucial to understand how consumers perceive berries to avoid irrelevant sensory research efforts (e.g. if consumers don’t perceive specific attribute at all, its measurement in sensory testing will not give meaningful data to improve the product).

Thanks to Daxens’ comprehensive social listening solution, Daxue’s team will be able to monitor, measure and analyze trends toward product/brand/topic over the time.

By creating a dedicated dashboard, Daxens’ project team will be able to monitor a whole universe of keywords related to the product, and, by doing so, get insights into the end consumers.

When kicking off the project Daxens’ team will set up series of KPIs for thorough online monitoring and assessment. Such KPIs could include: 

  • Traffic on official websites (Mandarin, Cantonese, English and other languages if necessary)
  • Natural ranking of the official websites and related pages on specific keywords
  • Number of views of videos uploaded to streaming platforms such as Youku
  • Reposts / Shares of official social media content
  • Analyze traffic peaks on official websites during / after trade events
  • Number of comments and conversations mentioning specific keywords
  • Tone of these conversations
  • Comments and tone of comments on ecommerce platforms
  • Number of new posts / new content uploaded every month with associated number of shares, likes, comments
  • Monitoring of key KOLs’ published content and endorsement (related to the brand, the product, the sector) before and after key events (offline promotional events, New Year, 11.11, 12.12, etc.)
  • Monitoring of related keywords and content following key trade events (depending on the industry)