With the large variety of nutrition and snack bars to choose from, it can be challenging for food companies to rise above the pack. Solae’s Sensory Science department recently shared results of their bar Key Sensory Drivers study in a poster session entitled, “Driving Growth in the Nutrition Bar Category: Sensory Characteristics and Consumer Liking for Chocolate-Based Nutrition Bars” at the 9th Annual Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium in Toronto, Canada.
The study examined sensory aspects of chocolate-based nutrition bars, such as appearance, flavor and texture. More than 300 bar consumers were recruited in California, Missouri and New Jersey and asked to rate their opinion of a diverse set of 20 nutrition and snack bars. The consumers showed similar liking response patterns, regardless of segment, reason for usage, bar frequency usage or exercise frequency. They ranked ‘taste/flavor’ as the most important characteristic influencing their purchase decision, while ‘protein’ and ‘fiber’ are key ingredients for their purchase decision.
“It’s important for us to conduct these studies to better understand how the various bars in the marketplace are similar or different and what consumers are looking for in this category,” said Colleen Conley, lead sensory scientist and associate science fellow, Solae. “This information allows us to identify optimal sensory characteristics for nutrition bars and discover potential new areas of opportunity for our customers.”
The products selected for the study were whittled down from 115 bars in the marketplace today. All bars contained chocolate as a common flavor ingredient, and represented a wide range of nutritional profiles. Sensory profiles of this diverse set of bars were documented using Solae’s highly trained descriptive analysis panel, resulting in a sensory perceptual map. Twenty bars were selected for final evaluation by consumers, each representing a unique space on the sensory perceptual map. The 20 bars tested included four prototype bars that were created by Solae to address potential white spaces in the sensory maps. The 16 other bars were commercial leaders and were purchased at retail stores across the country.
“We found that flavor and texture were the most important purchase drivers in this study followed close by calories, protein content and price,” said Conley. “We also found that consumers don’t necessarily distinguish between soy and whey as protein sources, which is a benefit to our B2B customers when balancing economics while still delivering the protein content consumers desire.”
Detailed feedback on the bars is being shared with Solae customers so they can use the information for product modification or new product offerings. “Two of the Solae prototypes scored in the top four of the bars we selected, which allows us to go to customers with those prototypes and suggest ways we can work together to create more products that appeal to consumers,” said Conley.
Immediate customer feedback on the study was positive and included this comment from a food scientist, “The Key Sensory Drivers study was very well done and helped us to focus on the attributes that are important in the category, while saving us an immense amount of time and effort.”
“This study is an example of Solae's intense customer focus: proactively developing unique and new technical insights that are relevant and impactful to our key customers,” states Minhthy Nguyen, senior director of global applications, technology and innovation, Solae.
Due to the success of this study, Solae’s Sensory Science department is in the early planning stages of a Key Sensory Drivers similar project on protein beverages to be conducted in early 2012. Customers or other beverage makers interested in participating in this study can contact Colleen Conley at [email protected].
Solae, LLC is a world leader in developing soy-based ingredients for nutritious, great-tasting products. Solae provides solutions that deliver a unique combination of functional, nutritional, economical and sustainable benefits to our customers. Headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., USA, the company was formed through a joint venture between DuPont (NYSE: DD) and Bunge (NYSE: BG) in 2003. Solae is a recipient of the 2011 Ethisphere's Ethics Inside Certification and was recognized as one of "World's Most Ethical Companies" in 2011. For more information, visit www.Solae.com.