Food Product Testing and Sensory Research in China

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Food Product Testing and Sensory Research in China

 The Market Opportunity

Sensory research in China. China is the world’s largest consumer market for food and beverage (F&B) products. As Chinese consumer behavior shift, the increasing middle class is more and more embracing the western lifestyle and fuelling demand for items like dairy products, western-style breakfast cereals and fruit-based products such as fruit jam. The main drivers have been the increasing health consciousness of Chinese people and per capita income growth. There are clear market openings for foreign brands who want to sell their products into the Chinese breakfast market. According to EU SME Center Report, by 2018, the Association of Food Industries predicts that China will be the world’s largest consumer of imported food. However, these imported products are not necessarily adapted to the local taste and might require some adjustments to match the local preferences in terms of sweetness, flavor, taste, pricing and packaging.

Case Description

Daxue Consulting’s client is a major international confectionery, jam, and fruit-based products manufacturer looking for new routes for further development into the Chinese market. Already exporting its products to China, our client was searching for secondary and primary research on the Chinese market as well as actionable recommendations for the launch of new products and expansion into the Chinese market. The company asked Daxue team to organize product tasting sessions in China in order to gather local perceptions to the products it sought to start distributing in the Mainland.

Daxue Consulting’s Expertise:

Daxue Consulting created a three-step process for an analysis of the confectionery and jam markets in China. This process began with an Observational Analysis of the market followed by a Sensory Research and ended with Recommended Routes for Development.

Phase 1: Observational Analysis

In the first phase, our team attempted to get a better understanding of the confectionery and jam market in China. This contained a Desk Research market overview, including research on:

  • Competition benchmark: market trends, market size, as well as market players and their marketing strategies and promotions online and offline.
  • Distribution channels: a full understanding of distribution channels and networks in addition to the challenges and obstacles that our client will face in seeking to expand further into the Chinese market.
  • Packaging: packaging, flavors, and ingredients of top products analysis.
  • Customers’ needs and tastes: consumers’ preferences and geographic presence of each product.

Phase 2: Sensory Research in China

Sensory research in China (or sensory evaluation) is the assessment of food products through the senses. The sensory evaluation tests produce a product profile that identifies all of the taste, smell, sight and texture. The profiles generated allow getting consumers feedback on the products, to identify “drivers of liking” (sensory attributes that drive products acceptance) and product preferences factors, and to compare one’s products to other well-known competitors’. The end goal of a sensory analysis project is to eventually make adjustments on the product’s recipe to match the local tastes (sweetness, flavor, taste, pricing, and packaging).  According to Clément Mougenot, head of research at Daxue Consulting, the biggest challenge with this method is the scientific aspect and the requirement of special formulas & software. Click here to get more information about how Daxue’s team is conducting sensory analysis in China.

After benchmarking its client’s direct competitors, Daxue Consulting organized a series of sensory research sessions in Shanghai (3 groups of 8 participants), where participants were asked to taste the client’s new recipes compared key competing products. Besides, at the end of the 3-hour group discussions, participants were also asked to give feedback on the packaging, pricing, and marketing tools. This made it possible for the client to understand which products were likely to appeal in China and what product characteristics to put forward in its China communication campaigns.

Phase 3: Recommended Routes for Development

This step contained our Final Analysis and Recommendations including:

  • Cross-analyze data collected during the Desk Research and Sensory Research phases
  • Identify and assess the opportunities, challenges, and obstacles that our client might face during their market development in China
  • Propose possible development routes for our client in China
  • Synthesize the data and create a final list of actionable recommendations

In the last phase, our team gave suggestions for how to adapt the recipe, the flavor of the product and how to change the package to better suit both Chinese adults and children.  Daxue Consulting’s project managers compared the client’s product taste and packaging to key competitors’, giving recommendations for what aspects of each competitor to adopt and which ingredients to avoid. Daxue team also provided a full strategic plan including suggested price range, place of sale, and promotional strategy.