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Panels

Your goals determine the panel composition :
Acceptance and preference tests are performed by a "naive" consumer panel, an objective sensory product profile is drawn up by a panel of trained experts and for difference tests, we rely on an experienced user panel.

It is highly recommended to treat these panels separately - a trained expert can hardly be considered as an average consumer.

Naive consumer panel

Acceptance evaluations are never right or wrong, they reflect a personal opinion. Reliable acceptance tests capture the existing variation in consumer preferences within a cross-section of the target population. Therefor a sample of at least 60 participants is required (cfr. ISO 11136).
To get an insight in the acceptance of the (potential) users of the tested products, it is essential to question a panel that is representative for the target population. V-G Sensory disposes of its own database with over 3.000 candidates who volunteered to participate in consumer tests in Flanders and Wallonia. This enables a test-specific panel recruitment not only based on demographic data but also on eating habits, consumption behaviour and other important aspects.
For the fieldwork of consumer tests abroad V-G Sensory relies on its international network with partners who follow the same high quality standards.

Trained panel of experts

Objective product evaluation requires a panel of at least 10 trained experts.

The set up of an expert panel starts with a product-specific selection on sensitivity and aptitude to identify and quantify the perceived stimuli.
The best quarter of the participants will be retained for further training. This training consists of several stages : determination of the relevant descriptors, set up of evaluation procedures, definition and calibration of scales and finally memorizing the calibration points on the scales. Only then the expert panel is ready to draw up the sensory profile of a test product.
Starting up a panel of experts can therefor easily take three to six months, depending on the extent of the desired profile.

A good expert panel shows only limited inter- and intra-panel variations : product evaluations are consistent within the panel and repeatable in time. Monitoring the panel performance with additional training sessions if necessary optimizes the quality of the panel.


Unique in Belgium : FCM expert panel !

Since 2015 V-G Sensory disposes of a panel of selected experts specifically screened for sensitivity towards off-flavours coming from food contact materials.

The screening is focused on sensitivity for components that are often associated with off-flavours coming from paper and board, but also from plastic, printing inks, solvents, ....
The ability to recognize and/or identify certain relevant flavours were tested to be able to identify the nature of potential off-flavours.

Experienced users for difference tests

In a difference test products which are very similar are served side by side and evaluated as similar or different. The answer is right or wrong and the number of correct answers determines the conclusion of the test.

For a realistic result, participants are not extremely sensitive but they are familiar with the protocol and they are able to remember their observations well.
Generally a difference test is based upon 24 to 30 evaluations to test product differences. To test product similarity it takes about double (cfr. ISO 4120).
Panel follow-up makes it possible to exclude participants who repeatedly perform poorly for this type of tests.