A Practical Guide to Consumer-Based Quality Testing

If you have landed on this article, it likely means that you are taking your food business to the next level. Congratulations! This is an incredible milestone and it means that you’ve created something that people love! Now the big question that likely keeps you up at night is: “Okay, so how do I scale my food production efficiently without compromising on that thing that got me here: customer experience?”

The answer is through consumer-based quality testing.

We hear much about safety recalls and their cost to manufacturers, but what we don’t hear about as much – and is equally crucial – are the damaging effects of inconsistent consumer-based quality. Consumer-based quality is measured by the sensory experience of your product – the flavor, the aroma, the texture, the visual presentation, and even the sounds (for example, the “crunch” a chip makes).

As you scale your production, you also scale your risk of mistakes being made. Any change in temperature or substitution of an ingredient can shift the sensory experience altogether. Not paying attention to this could result in shipping products that aren’t up to the high standards your customers have grown to expect.

The slightest change in temperature or substitution of an ingredient can shift the sensory experience altogether.

The direct costs are clear in the recalls and returns of your product that impact your bottom line immediately, but the indirect and hidden costs could be felt for years to come as you risk damaging your stellar reputation with your customers. This is why it’s as important to test for consumer-based quality as it is for things like nutrition and safety.

Setting up Your Consumer-Based Quality Testing

As with any sensory and consumer test, care must be taken to ensure that the right questions are posed to produce and actionable result.

1. Define your testing objectives

The very first step in planning a consumer-based quality test is to determine your objectives. What is your intended outcome? This will directly affect the design of the test.

For those using CtrlTaste, these objectives are conveniently set up for you from the get-go. Based on learning with a control sample, your judges can test the samples coming out of the batches for consistency, marking the results as pass or fail and giving the reasons why.

2. Determine products for evaluation

This includes identifying and entering the products you will be evaluating and considering sample variability. You also need to consider when the sample should be tested. It helps to test at the beginning of a production run, in the middle and towards the end of the run.

3. Set up your questions

You won’t only want to determine the key questions and evaluations, but also instructions for how to evaluate the product: what should the judges be looking for? What sort of feedback is helpful?

CtrlTaste provides the simple steps to set this up and helps you ensure you’ve covered all of the bases.

4. Determine the test requirements

Now that you’ve defined your objectives, you’ll need to determine what you’ll need to complete the testing. This includes:

Determining the minimum number of judges you’ll need to get results
Selecting judges and ensuring appropriate training.

Once again, CtrlTaste assists you with this step.

5. Make a plan for outcomes

What do you do if a batch fails the test? And how many fails will determine a complete shutdown of the production? How are you verifying the accuracy of the judges?

6. Set up your testing schedules

This is where you determine the frequency of your testing. Are you going to want to test daily? Weekly? Randomly? Perhaps you’ll want to trigger testing every time a piece of equipment is swapped-out or an ingredient changed?

7. Collect the data

How are you going to collect the data in order to get fast, accurate results that you can act on quickly? This is where CtrlTaste makes this process incredibly simple. Just invite your judges to the testing environment on their mobile app or tablet, and they’ll have all of the tools they need to report quickly and efficiently.

8. Monitor the responses

If you’re using CtrlTaste, you can simply watch the results in real-time, even from multiple locations.

9. Review results

After all of the data is collected, you can review the test results as a whole, diving into individual feedback as well as viewing the summary reports. If you see a need for additional data, you can send messages to the judges for clarification.

10. Track results over time

Ongoing testing, if done in CtrlTaste, is easily viewed over a period of time. You can generate reports based on location, time period, judge, batch and product. You can submit these findings and reports to stakeholders and decision-makers in your organization in an instant to get their input or alert them of any issues.

As your business grows over the years, your needs and application for sensory and consumer testing will likely grow as well. Over on Compusense.com, there are multiple resources, guides and case studies you can access to help guide you through this.

And in the meantime, congratulations on achieving so much success! We understand that this is no easy feat. Let us know how we can help you get to the next level.