Sensory profiles are used for different reasons by various departments within a company.

Product Development Advances

Veganism is the philosophy or lifestyle that excludes the use of animals and animal products for food, clothing and other purposes. Thus, explains Christine Garcia, vegan animal rights attorney, The Animal Law Office, vegans consume only plant-based products and look carefully at ingredients when purchasing products. Vegans are committed purchasers and regular consumers of vegan products, she says, and they are always looking for more vegan options.

People are vegan for numerous reasons, but one reason is opposing the mistreatment of animals. Some interesting figures regarding animal consumption are that Americans eat more than one million animals per hour. One out of every three American children born in 2000 will develop diabetes from poor dietary habits related to their diets. America feeds more than 70% of the grains and cereals grown in the U.S. to farmed animals. As much as 78% of ground beef contains microbes that are spread primarily by fecal matter.

Environmental concerns also support veganism. According to Garcia, the annual cost of environmental damage caused by industrial farming is $34.7 billion. Nearly half of the water and 80% of the agricultural land in the U.S. is used to raise animals for food. It takes 16lbs of grain to make 1lb of meat. Factory farms generate more than 89,000lbs of excrement per second. Meat production uses more water than growing an entire fruit and vegetable crop.

The American Dietetic Association says that vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity than meat-eaters. The vegan diet lowers cholesterol, contains less fat, saturated fat and calories than a vegetarian diet containing some animal products. Some say it lowers blood pressure, helps prevent heart disease, prevents and reverses diabetes, reduces gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis. Plant-based foods are higher in nutritional value and less expensive than animal-based foods.

Non-vegan foods in traditional diets can be replaced with vegan alternatives. For example, soy, oat, almond, rice and hemp can be used for non-dairy milks. Coconut is a great substitute for creams in recipes. Butter replacers include flax oil, nut butters, applesauce and canola oil. For sautéing, olive oil, vegetable broth, wine and non-fat cooking sprays work well. Honey can be replaced by agave nectar, unbleached cane sugar, beet sugar, maple sugar or syrup, rice sugar, concentrated fruit syrups, barley malt and sorghum syrup. Some of the functions egg provides in recipes have been replaced by vegan alternatives like agar powder, applesauce, bananas, flaxseed, mashed potatoes, breadcrumbs, pumpkin or tofu.

Vegan protein sources include beans and whole grains, tofu and tempeh, which is a whole soybean product with different nutritional and textural qualities than tofu. In addition, seitan textured vegetable protein (a meat substitute made from wheat gluten that is high in protein but low in fat), vegetable or nut mixtures and processed ingredients of the above items can make meat imitations such as “tofurkey” (a turkey substitute) and “soyriso” (a chorizo substitute). Vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria, and some experts believe that vegetarians used to get plenty of this vitamin from bacteria in drinking water. Since drinking water is now treated with chemicals that kill the bacteria, it is important to make sure that vegans get enough vitamin B12 from fortified foods (like most brands of soy or rice milks, some breakfast cereals and many brands of nutritional yeast) on a daily basis or by taking a sublingual B12 tablet of 10mcg per day.

When labeling vegan products, food producers should remember that ingredients such as whey and casein (milk derived) and gelatin (from animal tissue or bone) are not vegan. The following website ingredients.htm is a good source if in doubt about whether an ingredient is vegan.

“A New Trend of Veganism: A Must Know on Marketing, Labeling, and Ingredients,” Christine L. Garcia, vegan animal rights attorney, The Animal Law Office, .
—Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

The allocation of resources should be deliberate and proportional to product application.

Developing a Sensory Resource to Monitor Quality

Quality means different things to different people. Within a company, production may consider quality to be related to an established specification that they need to meet, whereas marketing may view it as based on price, product, placement, promotion and competitive environment. The consumers to whom a product is targeted may have expectations based on sensory expectations, price, packaging and image, or brand loyalty. Many companies strive to produce and market products that are manufactured with minimal defects, believing that is the best means to maintain market share. However, research indicates that absence of or minimizing defects may not be related (or only slightly related) to consumer expectations.

Traditional quality monitoring systems may not even take into account consumer opinions, which can result in lost revenues and erosion of brand loyalty. The adoption of a program that incorporates consumer-based quality objectives can help maintain market share and brand loyalty. This program’s goals should help develop meaningful sensory, analytical and defect specifications that yield the highest consumer acceptance within context of business strategy. Once determined, the goals should be incorporated into existing manufacturing guidelines. In other words, production operations need to manufacture products that meet consumer expectations.

A consumer-based specification process is one that requires management approval. Consumers should be exposed to samples of products that represent the full range of manufacturing capabilities. Based on their responses, existing specifications and production operations may be modified. This program requires input and effort from all production, research and development, and quality and consumer communications staff. Production personnel need to evaluate operations to determine what may cause variation in finished products (e.g., raw materials, shift variation, equipment or facilities variability and effects of shipping and storage). The trained consumer panel is then used to develop a common language (descriptors) that can be combined with product performance ratings to identify which product attributes are most desirable or undesirable to the consumer. Developing such panels takes time, money and commitment.

The development of new specifications would entail the integration of descriptive analysis, consumer analysis and defects measurement. It would also need to use preference segmentation, multivariate analysis and consumer liking, as well as sensory attributes and their ranges, based on a combination of statistical analysis, evaluation of key product differences and project team consensus. This protocol may be applied to a wide array of products or applied to different aspects in a production system. It could look at a product that is in the market (age in products with limited shelflife), shipping effects or the overall market. For example, to determine what attributes might be important to experts and consumers, expert grading systems and consumer/trained panel tests may be used. Experts’ perceptions could be explored using in-depth focus groups to better understand their performance criteria. This information could be integrated with consumer tests in different markets and descriptive analysis studies to better understand the dynamics of the market. (See chart “Trained Panel Specification.”) This approach can help companies identify significant cost savings and opportunities to enhance market share.

Food processors cannot ignore consumers, their needs or their perceptions of quality. A consumer-based specification process program utilizes the strengths of trained panels; consumers and personnel from production; research and development; quality; and consumer communications. All of these combine to determine how products are perceived, what affects variation and what specifications will enhance products and their acceptance.

“Developing a Sensory Resource to Monitor Quality,” Bruce Yandell, vice president, Tragon Corporation,,
—Summary by Rick Stier, Contributing Editor

Product Development Advances

Winning products can be new to the world through innovation or new to a company. They can include line extensions, revisions to existing products, repositioning and cost reductions. A winning product increases sales volume, sales dollars and profit margins. These are sustainable competitive advantages, but also include risk.

Objectively identifying opportunities in order to effectively allocate limited resources in the product development process was the topic discussed by Allan D. Samson, president, ESCA Enterprises Inc.

A few simple strategies for winning products include defining the right market segments, understanding unmet needs, knowing the competition, defining value strategy and developing the right new products.

The classic resources are time, money and people. Nobody has enough. That is because valuable resources get wasted through inefficient application, ineffective development strategies and inefficient allocation. Direct resources include product development, suppliers, technical services, manufacturing, engineering, procurement, consumer testing and marketing support.

Decisions in product development involve paper versus bench, the level of developer involvement, internal versus external development, formulation strategies, product policy constraints, financials and the big picture versus the product.

Questions when choosing suppliers include: What type of ingredients or components are being purchased? Does the supplier provide equipment and/or services? What are their strengths? How are they involved? Do they provide a competitive advantage? What is the risk of outsourcing the same? When procuring ingredients, important considerations are vendor selection, ingredient substitution possibilities, contract bidding, supplier and partner constraints.

The QA and technical services departments typically provide guidance on company policy and product consistency/brand image. Product and process specifications and control, ingredient monitoring, quality implementation and allergen control are also QA functions that are important for creating winning products.

Manufacturing and engineering lead the way in equipment design and procurement. They also design the most efficient and cost effective process while considering production flexibility and manufacturing capabilities, co-packers, etc.

Another important resource is sensory evaluation. To use it most efficiently, it should be done at the right point in the development process. Choosing the right number of samples and panelists, whether consumer or trained, are jobs for a sensory expert. The objective of the test needs a clear definition. Then a decision can be made on whether the risk will be worth the reward.

Packaging requires expertise in packaging design, flexibility and function. Marketing provides product preparation instructions, which can be often an after-thought. They also work to maximize product usage and provide foodservice operator support.

Squandering resources can occur when showing an unrealistic product, accepting an unrealistic request, following operations mandates (when the operations and production teams dictate how the product will be manufactured, which may fit their plant but result in inefficient production and a waste of resources), trying to appease the golden palate (when a supervisor or boss, based on position, injects a personal preference that moves the new product development (NPD) process in a direction) and being influenced by personal interests. Indicators of ineffective resource allocation are a panicky work atmosphere, too many top priorities, never-ending projects, duplication of efforts (internal and external), slow decisions and fast change.

The best people resources know when to adhere to guidelines, break the rules, take a position, say no for the right reasons, hire to cross-pollinate (hire people from varied disciplines that are not related to the business at hand to get fresh thinking into the NPD process) and deliver results. Being the best will deliver winning products, personal growth, individual development, company growth and profitability.

“Developing Winning Products in a Resource Constrained Environment,” Allan D. Samson, ESCA Enterprises,
—Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor