When it comes to accessing fresh beer, there’s no doubt working in the brewing industry comes with its perks. However, the flip side of this benefit means that many of us drift further and further away from the experience of our consumers.

Have you ever received a consumer complaint or read comments about your products online which leaves you wondering if they’re talking about the same product? You’re not alone.

Although the perception of your product by consumers can vary due to factors such as storage and age, there is still opportunity in gaining the “big picture” understanding of its quality performance related to the consumers experience.

Pulling samples out of retention storage or the warehouse whilst insightful just doesn’t provide a reliable reflection when it comes to imitating the experience of the consumer because those products haven’t yet had the full distribution, retail, and storage experience.

Some of our most well-known and beloved food companies pay consumer research companies a small fortune to tap into the minds of their consumers but there are more affordable ways for small to medium businesses to get some good quality data in this area.

Buying your product back…

As a QA Manager, I dedicated countless hours purchasing our products for sensory panels, including panels for employees to assess in-market progress.

I also closely monitored the best before dates present in the market to determine the product’s age upon reaching consumers. This information can prove invaluable for production and sales team planning.

Before buying products back, consult with your sales team to identify stores and locations that have fast-moving stock. Prioritising high-selling locations is the best way to efficiently capture a representation of a larger consumer base within the limited time you have.

Conducting sensory analysis on in-market samples…

So, you’ve got your samples and eager tasters lined up, what’s next? It really depends on what you’re aiming for. Here are a couple of ways to present your in-market samples to the sensory panel:

  • Competitive benchmark tasting – A great way to frame in-market tastings is to put your product up against other competitors which you purchased at the same time from the same store. This test should be done blind, ideally with 4-6 samples. Ask each taster to assess the samples on their own merit and at the end force a preference by asking the taster to order them from favourite to least favourite.
  • Benchmarking against your retention samples – This test gives you a more tangible insight into how the product ages and changes in the marketplace. Ideally this would be conducted as a blind tasting and where possible as a triangle tasting, where 2 of the 3 samples are identical. The key benefit of which is allowing for the most subtle of differences between products.
  • Full Product Assessment – This test is conducted non-blind and starts with an assessment of the packaging through to pouring and tasting. The key benefit of this test is to incorporate the entire consumer experience from first impressions, ease of opening and serving through to tasting. Additionally, this is the better test to capture carbonation and head retention as these attributes can be assessed immediately upon pouring.

Quantitative and qualitative feedback…

“Quantitative” and “Qualitative” are pretty much the Yin and Yang of the quality world. Both offer valuable insight on their own but together form the “Big Picture”.

To maximize your test results, have your panel score the sample attributes against a clear scale and articulate their reasoning for each score.

Qualitative feedback can be challenging for inexperienced tasters, you can assist your panel by placing job aids such as the Beer Flavour Wheel or the DraughtLab Beer Flavour Map (my personal favourite) in the tasting.

The ideal tasting panel for in-market…

For maximum buy in your best bet is to get people on board who influence the quality, age and distribution of your product in the marketplace. Suggested panels include:

  • The person responsible for scheduling and planning with the key benefit of helping them to understand how age of stock out in the market affect the appearance and taste of the product.
  • Key members of the Sales Team.
  • Packaging operators.
  • Warehouse Manager.

Final Thoughts…

Understanding and stepping into the shoes of your consumers is essential for any brewery or beverage company aiming to deliver high-quality products that resonate with their target audience. By actively seeking feedback through in-market sampling, conducting sensory analysis, and incorporating both quantitative and qualitative data, you can gain valuable insights into how your product performs in the marketplace. Engaging a diverse tasting panel, including individuals involved in production, sales, and distribution, further enhances your understanding of the consumer experience. Remember, consistency in data collection and a commitment to staying connected with your consumers will pave the way for ongoing success and enable you to tell a compelling story of product quality. Cheers to a consumer-focused approach and continuous improvement.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. We hope you found it informative and valuable. We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the strategies we’ve shared, or any additional tips you have for fostering engagement and driving quality performance. Please feel free to leave a comment or reach out to us directly. Your feedback is important to us and helps us to continue creating content that is relevant and helpful to our audience.

Leave A Comment