Meet the Expert
Who: Amber Bradbury
What: Sensory Projects Manager
Where: Campden BRI
Changing a product’s recipe, process, shelf-life or packaging can be a daunting task. What impact will the change have on the product’s appeal? Will consumers still enjoy it? It’s not unusual to ask these questions, and the only way to get a definitive answer is to test it.
Relative profiling is an exciting (and fairly new) tool that helps food and drink manufacturers minimise the risks associated with product changes. It works using a highly trained food tasting panel, who describe the key sensory characteristics (appearance, odour, flavour, texture and aftertaste/mouthfeel) of a test sample(s) against a control sample. The panel then score the intensity of each sensory characteristic of the test sample(s) in comparison to the control to reveal any differences.
Manufacturers commonly use this tool to:
- compare prototype recipes against current recipes – e.g., for ingredient additions or reformulations
- determine the effect of a change in process or packaging on a product
- monitor changes in a product over its shelf-life compared to a start-of-life sample
- assess a product against a competitor or multiple competitors
Relative profiling has diverse applications to support food and drink manufacturers, as the following examples demonstrate.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the negative health impacts associated with excessive sugar consumption. Campden BRI was approached by a manufacturer of a lasagne product looking to reduce the sugar in their product. The manufacturer produced five test samples, each containing a different sugar replacement, but needed to know whether they had a comparable flavour sensory profile to their current lasagne recipe. Through relative profiling, we were able to identify the one that tasted most similar to the current recipe, allowing the manufacturer to release the healthier version to the market with no noticeable difference in flavour.
Picking a prototype
A manufacturer recently approached us looking to assess a cake bar that could be stored at ambient temperature. The company wanted a sensory profile comparable to their existing chilled product, but with the benefits associated with ambient, i.e., more practical storage and transport options. We used relative profiling to compare two prototype cake bar samples, identifying the one most similar to the original in terms of its overall sensory profile.
Assessing new equipment
Relative profiling allowed a manufacturer to compare a meat product that had been marinated using a new piece of equipment (that aimed to reduce marination time) against the standard approach of marinating meat in the fridge. The results provided the manufacturer with an understanding of the effectiveness of their new marination method.
Monitoring product changes over shelf-life
One of Campden BRI’s clients received complaints of their ready meal product changing flavour over time. Relative profiling was used to conclude that the product increased in sweetness as it aged. The results allowed the manufacturer to redevelop its recipe to prevent this issue.