Fast-Track Descriptive Analysis

October 1, 2007

2 Min Read
Fast-Track Descriptive Analysis

Whether you’ve reformulated a successful product and want to know how it compares to the gold standard, or want to know how your product compares to that of a competitor, descriptive analysis is invaluable.

“Descriptive analysis provides detailed analytical data that precisely identifies and measures all of the perceived sensory attributes of products,” says Kathleen Rutledge, president and CEO, 21st Sensory, Inc. “This is sometimes referred to as a sensory ‘fingerprint.’”

The company’s traditional method of descriptive analysis requires 10 to 12 panelists, a rigid test design and, often, a sensory statistician to analyze data. While useful for companies making high-risk business decisions, or when a large number of samples are involved, this method can be time-consuming and expensive.

“Our fast-track consensus descriptive analysis was developed as an economy measure,” says Rutledge. “It entails only five or six panelists, so they are easier to convene, and we can usually get the project out in a week. It’s the same panelists, same training, same ballot development and the same tools.”

One important difference is the consensus-panel method allows panelists to come to a consensus on attribute scores. They ballot independently of each other, as they would do on a traditional descriptive panel, then post scores on a board and discuss the similarities and differences of their individual evaluations. “There may be a wobble of a point or so on a given attribute,” says Rutledge. “If there is, the group will retest to create an average score. They get to the bottom line right there.”

“In a sense,” says Donna Baughn, senior project manager, “the products are dissected on the ballot using descriptive analysis, then the panelists reassemble them to illustrate how the products are similar or different.”

The consensus-panel method is especially useful for evaluating a limited number of products, as well as for prototype selection; bench-top assessment; in-depth data and qualitative profiles; “expert” panel guidance; and when a client wants to participate and listen to product data and information.

Rutledge says the consensus panel method is a success because of its rapidity and the product insight it provides. “At first, there was some concern because companies thought they were losing statistics,” she says. “Yes, you’re losing the power of the statistics, but you’re giving the panel a voice.”

21st Sensory, Inc.
P.O. Box 3913 Bartlesville, OK 74006 
Phone: 918/333-1011 
E-mail: [email protected] 
Website: www.21stsensory.com 

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