Using Our Senses – A Sensory Approach To Successful Brand and Product Development

Vivien Wilton-Middlemass, Head of Sensory Research at McCallum Layton will be presenting a paper on “Using Our Senses – A Sensory Approach To Successful Brand and Product Development” at this year’s Insight Show, which takes place between 29-30th June 2010 at (Grand Hall, Olympia, London). Vivien’s session will be held on both days at the event, and will uncover:

· How to develop a successful brand/product strategy
utilising a combined sensory and consumer research

· Explore the benefits of sensory research

· Using all our senses to create longer, stronger and more
profitable brands/products

If you would like to find out more information about this session or arrange a meeting with Vivien, please contact: John McCambley, Head of Brand Marketing & Communications on Tel: +44 (0)113 237 5590.

Centre stage at “Esomar – Fragrance 09”

Vivien Wilton-Middlemass, Head of Sensory Research takes to the stage at Esomar’s annual Fragrance conference which is being held in Cannes, France between 22nd and 24th June.

Vivien’s session will show how through applying a multi staged approach of combined sensory and consumer research techniques we can identify and develop the best sensory stimuli suited to developing a successful branding strategy.
To find out more about our involvement, please contact John McCambley, Head of Brand Marketing & Communications on:

Tel: +44 (0)113 237 5590

McCallum Layton To Speak At Major Food & Drink Seminar In March

We are pleased to announce that on Wednesday 25th March, Vivien Wilton-Middlemass (Head of Sensory Research) will present a paper at the Food and Drink Innovation Network’s seminar (Better, Quicker And Cheaper NPD).

Session details:


• How to maintain market/brand share in uncertain times using
sensory data and analysis.
• How sensory can assist in cost reduction and ingredient
• Using taste to drive innovation.
• Get better sales by targeting products for specific market
• Top tips to ensure consumer acceptance and maintain brand

If you would like to find out more about our involvement, please contact John McCambley, Head of Brand Marketing & Communications at or tel: +44 (0)113 237 5590

To find out more about FDIN, visit

Make Sure Your New Product Is Not A Lemon, And If It Is, Is It Bitter Or Sour?

Howard Frost and Vivien Wilton-Middlemass explain the role of sensory testing in new product development across a range of products.

New product development usually treads a familiar and well worn path. Once the need for a new product has been identified there follow the concept development stage, concept testing, fine tuning, prototype production and so on. At the same time decisions are being made regarding various marketing issues, for example, the creation of an advertising platform, promotional launch details and maybe a review of the distribution channels for the new product. However, this process is detailed in numerous marketing tracts so it is not our intention here to bore the reader with that which can be readily found elsewhere. We want to sharpen your senses or rather show you how sharper senses can ensure you have got the best product and that you are ready for launch.
Let’s assume that you’ve identified the need for a new product, ascertained there is demand, done the concept development and testing, made the prototype and have all your marketing ducks lined up. But, and this is a big but, how do you know you have got the best product, the product that, out of all the ideas you have looked at and out of all the prototypes you’ve produced, has the best chance of success?
Well, if you accept the assumption that there are reasons behind everything, then there have to be reasons why people will select your new product over the competition. To give your new product the best chance of success you need to accurately identify those reasons. Let’s take an example, some people buy dark chocolate and some milk. Those who prefer dark chocolate often describe it as being more bitter than milk chocolate and cite this as one of the main reasons as to why they choose the former over the latter; but what does bitter mean?
Assume that you are about to launch your new dark chocolate bar, but, is it too bitter, or not bitter enough? Taste tests with the public are all very well but one person’s ‘very bitter’ is another person’s ‘a little bitter’. How does your new product score on the other criteria that feed into people’s decision trees when buying chocolate? Oh, you think, if only I had a definitive metric of bitterness and a measure of where my competitors’ products and my new product scored on the ‘bitterness’ scale, and how well my target market’s taste aligned with each of these, then I would be in a position to launch the optimum product. Guess what – you can! And not just for chocolate but also for mobile ‘phones, cosmetics, cleaning products, cars and a whole heap of other products. In short you can enlist the help of sensory testing techniques in any situation where your senses play a part in product selection – you tell me where they don’t.
Sensory testing and new product development go hand in hand; it can be used at various touch points throughout your development process to ensure that your new product matches what the market wants. For those unfamiliar with the basic technique it relies on the recruitment and training of a panel of experts who, through the use of consistent test stimuli, develop an appropriate and common language for a specific product or group of products. Panels can be trained for taste, for example for different kinds of food and drink ranging from yellow fats to beer, or touch, an example here being cosmetics where the difference between a product being smooth or greasy can make all the difference, through to sight – what is the optimum hue for a tomato? Think of all the ways that your product interacts with your customers’ senses and at each of these points there is a potential role for sensory testing.
Sensory testing dovetails perfectly with research methodologies that enable the understanding of the wider audience that report their motivational drivers to buy a particular product and together these techniques will provide any person, working in NPD, with a solid base on which to make decisions. Take, for example, a car manufacturer that learns that a customer is likely to pay more for a car (or their kitchen cabinets) whose doors shut with a satisfying, opulent sounding ‘thunk.’ Even though this is only one of a myriad of factors in the choosing of a car, the manufacturer would be somewhat remiss if they dismissed this aspect when designing their new models.
So where do the lemons come into it? Like me you might be surprised to know that there are forty seven varieties of lemon. Interestingly, lemon growers classify them as acid or sweet but how many people have you ever heard asking for a sweet lemon?

Attitudes Towards The Recession

In October/November 2008, we carried out an in-depth piece of research which looked at how the current economic downturn is affecting purchasing behaviours and future buying intentions between consumers from differing generations (with a sample split between 18-29 year olds and 30+ year olds).

25% of 18-29 year olds believe their disposable income will increase in 2009…
44% of the combined sample will continue with their changes to spending habits (even after the current climate has improved)…
67% of 30+ year olds believe there will be an increase in crime as a result of the current climate…

To find out more about our results, findings and recommendations, please drop me an email at

Click on the link “Attitudes Towards The Recession” to watch our short video clip.


Leeds based research & marketing insight consultancy McCallum Layton has recently expanded its range of services to include sensory testing. Headed by Vivien Wilton-Middlemass, who has over 20 years experience in sensory testing, the agency has developed its own bespoke sensory testing unit and panel in Leeds which offers cost-effective testing across the food and drink, FMCG and cosmetic industries.


Vivien was awarded Business Woman of the Year and made a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts for her innovation and contribution to the food and drink industry in 1987 and 1989 respectively.


This year has already seen the agency strengthen its insight and marketing teams and also expand its CATI unit as a result of new, long-term business wins throughout 2007-08.


Founding Partner Duncan McCallum said, “We have already had a lot of interest in our new Sensory Testing Unit which was developed as part of an ongoing plan to provide clients with an even greater range of services.”