Frankly speaking: The ‘Three Bears’ snydrome

Frankly speaking: The ‘Three Bears’ snydrome

Frank, Paula

Have you ever gathered several people around to taste a prototype you’re working on, only to have one person say “it’s too sweet,” another say “it’s not sweet enough,” and a yet another say “it’s just right?” What does that remind you of? Do you get a vision of Goldilocks and the three bears? I officially dub that the “three bears syndrome”

As a former product developer, I distinctly recall feeling frustrated from being given mixed advice. After all, unless one of the individuals’ providing the advice is your boss, which leaves you little choice in the matter, whose opinion do you go with?

Translating a customer’s request into a viable product that meets his or her expectations might also fall into the “three bears syndrome.” I recall working on a rotisserie chicken application (I know it’s not dairy, but use your imagination). Every time I’d send a prototype to the client, I would get mixed feedback (e.g., it needs more grill flavor, it needs more garlic, it needs more smoke, it has too much smoke, it has too much grill flavor, etc.).

After traveling to the customer with about a dozen prototypes and wearing everyone’s palate out, a thought finally occurred to someone. “Let’s go out and buy some rotisserie chicken and use that as a target” Brilliant! A stroke of genius! Now what?

That’s where you get sensory analysis involved – truly one of my favorite topics. You can run a descriptive panel on the target. By doing so, the panel develops a “fingerprint” of the target by comparing perceived tastes and aromas to reference samples. As future prototypes are developed, they can be compared to the target by running difference panels that determine whether or not a difference exists; or the descriptive panel can determine what these differences are. Even if differences do exist, a preference panel may determine that these differences are in fact positive, and that consumers prefer the prototype to the target.

Sensory analysis can save valuable R&D time. Even if resources are limited, outsourced training is available for scienfists. Resources are also available such as the comprehensive volume of Aroma and Flavor Lexicons published by American Society for Testing and Materials, Conshohocken, Penn.

Whatever you do, watch out for the “three bears syndrome” It’s liable to leave you running around in circles.

by Paula Frank

Dairy RED Editor

Copyright Stagnito Publishing Jan 2002

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