Everyone Thinks Taste Is Subjective. Here’s Why It Isn’t.

In this guest post Rachel Bailey of ChefsBest discusses the impact of taste on private brand.

How many times have you heard someone say, “everybody has different taste”? The adage is certainly a common one. However, when it comes to food, the saying’s underlying assumption, that taste is synonymous with preference, couldn’t be farther from the truth.

First off, let’s acknowledge that taste is really important. It’s important because consumers wouldn’t keep buying your product if it didn’t taste good. The research supports this commonsense conclusion. One recent study found that taste, smell and texture are the top three most important factors shoppers think about when purchasing seafood. On a more general scale, a separate survey revealed that, for the last decade, taste has consistently ranked as the most important factor consumers consider when buying and eating food.

So, your products should taste good. But how do private brands go about measuring the experience of consuming their product, including taste, to begin with?

The experience of consuming a food or beverage can be broken down into appearance, aroma, flavor, texture, and its levels of the five basic tastes (sweet, bitter, sour, savory, and umami). These various components of the eating and drinking experience can be measured through identifying the specific sensations of consuming a product (e.g., garlic aroma) and the perceived intensity of that sensation (e.g., from weak to strong). Gather together a descriptive panel to identify and define your product’s sensations, and measure those sensations, and you’ve got some very specific sensory data you’re working with.

Janet Williams, who has over 25 years of CPG brand research experience, explains what a highly-trained descriptive panel’s discussion looks like at third-party research company ChefsBest: “During the language development process we expose the panel to products to enhance exposure to the category, generate terms to describe the sensory characteristics, and increase sensitivity to differences. We define the terms and identify anchors for the specific scales. For example, the panel used ‘lactic tang’ as a term on a cheese scorecard. The anchor for low lactic tang was represented by mozzarella and cream cheese while high lactic tang was anchored with parmesan and aged cheddar.”

Once the panel has clearly defined the terms and scales they’re using, they can rate the perceived intensity of each sensation, referred to as sensory attributes.

Williams expounds, “…there are different triggers that make us say, ‘Oh I love this and I want more of it’ or ‘I hate this and I want less of it.’ But what we do in the sensory world is try to understand perceptions, give them a name, and measure them… Using fully understood language by the panel, we can measure each perception.”

In sum, descriptive panels can provide useful sensory data on food and beverage products. Private brands can use that information to quantify and understand the sensations that come with consuming their product.

Coming to ChefsBest with dual degrees from the Culinary Institute of America and the University of Houston, Rachel Bailey brings with her classic and contemporary culinary sensibilities, experience from a stint in a three Michelin-starred restaurant, as well as broad wine knowledge from her time in the Napa Valley. Providing insight on production and flavor, she helps brands maximize their taste messaging and connect the consumer audience with unique tastes, production, and technical components of individual food products.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.