Data - the new gut feeling

October 15, 2010 10:03

Greater knowledge about consumer preferences, desires and needs increases the likelihood of developing successful products, reports with reference to Nofima Marine.

Researchers at Nofima Mat have been working for many years on developing effective data modelling programmes that enable companies to reduce risk and increase their likelihood of success with product innovations. These tools have been developed by experts in statistics, consumer research and sensory perception working closely together.

Turning the innovation process upside down

Multivariate analysis models are central to Nofima's consumer research and they give much better and safer results than models that take into account one variable at a time.

It's all about creating the right products on the basis of consumer preferences. Instead of presenting a finished product or a prototype to consumers and finding out if it satisfies their wishes, the process begins at the other end. Firstly one finds out what properties are important to consumers and then this information is used to start the innovation work.

"Typically we would start with a series of proposed prototypes, perhaps after initial studies of general tendencies and consumer perceptions. By means of an interactive process in which we compare knowledge of both the product and sensory analysis, as well as consumer surveys and statistics, we are able to evaluate these proposals against each other in the light of what consumers want. This can apply to both the product itself and to other aspects, such as packaging, labelling etc. Statistics and good software are essential for interpreting the huge volume of data involved and for drawing the right conclusions," says Professor Tormod Næs of Nofima Mat.

Three stages to better decisions

In recent years Nofima has been working on three important elements of development work on statistics and data modelling. The first stage in this "three stage rocket" is the PanelCheck software. This is a tool for sensory analysis that makes it far easier to perform quality controls and interpret the data produced by this type of analysis. Today this software, which can be downloaded free of charge from, has become the industry standard for sensory panel data modelling and is also in active use in many universities, institutes and companies around the world.

The recently published book Statistics for Sensory and Consumer Science is stage number two, and the book's third chapter is in many ways an instruction manual for the PanelCheck software. The third stage is the ConsumerCheck software, which is under development. ConsumerCheck is a further development of PanelCheck.

"In ConsumerCheck, the focus is on interaction between sensory perception and knowledge about consumers, with particular emphasis on connecting sensory and external properties of the product in one and the same consumer study. This programme will give us completely new opportunities for fast and effective product innovation in the industry," says Tormod Næs.

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