Quest International recently launched its “linking flavor ingredients and sensory data to acceptance”—or LISA—program aimed at gathering consumer insights for faster, highly structured flavor design processes. Melding quantitative consumer research and sensory panel research, the program’s role is to target consumers more narrowly to meet the likings of consumers of various ethnicities, generations, genders and nationalities. (Despite the recent move to acquire the company by Givaudan, Quest representatives appear confident that the sensory, innovation and customer understanding core of the process will continue to be a strong force.)
Preference by region: The LISA program “combines data on the flavor components that determine consumer liking with data on sensory attributes (like creaminess, juiciness, ripeness or sweetness) and on consumer preferences.” The company’s research has netted some interesting data. Take orange, for example, one of the most universally accepted flavors. In Boston, according to Quest data, consumers tend to prefer “a candy, sweet orange drink,” while those in Seattle and Chicago prefer a “sweet fruity juicy orange drink” and “juicy peel-like orange drink,” respectively. But even within each region there are distinct differences. Quest’s LISA data suggests that, for instance, Boston-area females prefer a less sweet orange drink than the population as a whole. On the contrary, females in Seattle prefer a sweeter orange drink than the base population. When it comes to strawberry dairy drinks, Chicago seeks jammy and not-too-sweet, while Seattle and Boston prefer creamy-fruity and sweet-fruity, respectively.
Reversing the traditional development process: Quest says it seeks to use this information on the front end of the flavor development process. Instead of focusing consumer research “at the end of projects in order to verify that the assumptions used in the product development process were correct,” Quest looks to start the product development process based on results of sensory and consumer tests. In other words, the company says that LISA allows them to know “which ingredients drive preferences for the specific target group (and application) for which a flavor is being developed, before the actual flavor development.”