We have all heard that “4 out of 5 dentists prefer….”—-you can fill in the blank.  But did they really only ask 5 dentists?  Were they young?  Old?  Do they live on the east coast?  West coast?  Who are these dentists anyway?

Choosing appropriate demographics in market research and sensory evaluations is paramount when designing a sensory study. If we are asking questions of the wrong people, we might as well have not come to work that day. Putting time and thought into proper panelist recruiting and screening ensures usable, actionable data will prevail.

What is my target audience for this product?
Understanding who will use or consume a product is one thing to consider but let’s not ignore the fact that a different person may be making the purchase decision. Kids products are a great example of this situation. In many cases, testing the product for acceptability with children is important, but including their parents in a separate panel may be necessary to capture additional data that could predict purchase decisions.

Are there gender or age considerations?
Some products are inherently male or female focused. Other products span both genders. Considering this characteristic of your product should guide you in setting gender standards for your panelists. Failing to set gender standards even at 50/50 could limit you in the ability to parse the data by gender later. The same thing goes for the age of panelists. If your product is consumed by all ages, make sure they are represented in your study population.

Where will this product be sold geographically?
If a product will be sold in a specific geographic location or perhaps will start in a limited launch, what are the demographics of that area of the country? Examining the local trends and mirroring those in your study population will give an indication of the success of the product for that market. Additional panelists can also be added that represent the next market or expanded distribution for a look a little farther into the future.

Am I interested in heavy users?
If your product is key to your brand such as a signature dish, then any changes to that product should be cleared with your best supporters. Heavy users of a particular brand can give good indications of what the market expects from that brand in the future. In addition, heavy users of a certain type of product can give new entrant in that market an indication of what works and what doesn’t in that product line.

How do I find and capture my target audience?
Knowing whom you need for your sensory study and finding those folks en masse are two different challenges. Discuss with your sensory services partner what your expectations are for your panelists and make sure they can deliver. Multisite testing often is the best bet for products that will be sold nationally so all target populations can be accounted for.

Mérieux NutriSciences is a premier provider of sensory services.  With three locations in the US, Mérieux NutriSciences can recruit and screen panelists to match your specific needs.  Panels can even include hard to find demographics groups like teens and kids, and be administered in Spanish. Learn more about our Sensory capabilities!

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