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Sensory Panel

A sensory panel may be described as a group of testers who have exceptional sensory faculties and can describe products on the basis of taste, smell or feel.

The sensory panelists are trained to describe their sensory experiences using words they generate in previous training sessions. These words are more detailed than those used by consumers, and more useful for R&D departments.

The parameters they can measure:

  • Smell: Perfumes and Aromas etc.
  • Taste: Flavor, Texture etc
  • Touch: Viscosity for cosmetics, roughness/smoothness for a leather steering wheels, for instance
  • Other sensations like vibration of a drill, smoothness of a car ride etc.

Linking data from a Sensory Panel and Consumer Tests for a common set of
products is a very powerful development tool. By statistically linking, i.e., mapping the expert descriptions and consumer liking, the key elements that actually drive preference can be optimized to meet consumer needs. This technique can be used to great effect by identifying "taste segmentation groups".

When to use Sensory Panels?

Sensory Panels may be used as part of market understanding to:

  • Describe current products in the market (mapping a market)
  • Tracking competitive product changes over time

They can be used as part of product development program to :

  • Develop a new product from gaps in existing market maps
  • Determine if it is possible for
    consumers to notice changes
  • Understand the magnitude of changes that will get a particular consumer reaction
  • Determine which products and concepts in a range of new ones are the most promising
  • Substantiate advertising propositions and label claims

Sensory panels can also be utilized in the Quality management process for:

  • Determining product changes over time for shelf life evaluation
  • Determining the effect of in-house ingredients and process changes (Quality Improvement
    and Cost Reduction)
  • Understanding tolerances for a QA program

A sensory panel is more appropriate for repeated assessments.

Objective of Sensory Panels

Any decision related to sensory evaluation begins with identifying what the researcher wants to accomplish. The most common objectives pertain to product development and quality.

Specific functions could include product matching, enhancement of ingredient specifications, shelf-life determinations and cost optimization. When detection, not identification, of differences is the goal, it involves less time and training. However, situations that require attribute-specific quantifiable data, such as target matching, demand a trained panel of product specialists. Every panelist must be competent in using the sensory method, terminology, rating scales, and evaluation ballots or programs.

“Descriptive stats reveal background flavors and textures, as well as intensities that explain consumer choices.” Combined analysis of consumer and descriptive data reveals key drivers of consumer liking and how to make a product that meets acceptance standards.

Many companies use trained sensory panels to gather objective analysis. The sensory panels are different than a consumer tasting panel. "Sensory panels guide product development while consumers help with market acceptability."

Sensory panels use descriptive analysis, to allow the flavor group to understand the attributes of the functional ingredients or formulations, and to create flavors that allow the final product to have enhanced palatability. They can identify flavor, aromatic and texture characteristics and rate those characteristics on an intensity scale."

Members of such panels undergo training to be able to provide specific, objective details on scent and flavor attributes. Trained sensory panel judges are not determining drinkability or acceptability. They help determine whether a flavor characteristic is perceptible and to what degree.

Sensory panelists are given an intensive 3-week training, using a barrage of samples and studying sensory techniques such as profiling, scaling and references. They also learn the difference between flavor facts (quantitative attribute measurement that is based on training) and opinions (qualitative judgment).

A highly trained sensory panel does not generate fuzzy directions. There’s no subjectivity in a professional descriptive food panel.”

In addition to assisting in formulation work, sensory panels can also assist in the characterization of raw materials. This lends insight, into what a company or flavor house might expect, in a formulation combining several functional ingredients.

Industry Vertical where the Sensory Panel method is used:

  • Food and Beverage
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Agriculture
  • Flavor
  • Consumer Products, etc.

Sensory panels are primarily employed by organizations when a product’s standard of quality needs to be established, controlled or assured. This method essentially helps manufacturers determine if their product meets the consumers’ preferences and helps in marketing the product successfully. This method however has certain advantages and disadvantages that can be enlisted as:


  •  Sensory panels help manufacturers, scientists, food technologists etc. gain a clear perception of what ordinary consumers may experience
  • Sensory panel testing can be much more rapid than most non-sensory methods
  • Sensory panelists use more than one sense, making them more flexible instruments
  • Sensory panelists can be very sensitive and good at detecting minute differences in product characteristics
  • Sensory panels are acceptable for writing into specifications for quality
  • Laboratory facilities are not required to conduct the descriptive analysis of a product. This makes sensory panels a feasible proposition to study products


  •  Sensory panelists can become fatigued with the entire process of testing and assessing descriptive data
  • Assessors may be subject to biases e.g. from loss of interest or from distractions
  • To ensure precision in the analysis and interpretation of the descriptive data, several assessors may be required, making it an expensive proposition
  • The entire process of recruiting and training sensory panelists can be a time-consuming and costly process
  • It may not be easy to replace assessors quickly, as the incoming assessor will have to be given intensive training to develop requisite expertise of the job
  • The sensory panel method can be more expensive than some non-sensory methods
  • The panelists may not be good at quantifying perceptions
  • Interpretation of results may get problematic and be open to dispute