While packaging, name and ingredient list all play a role in the perception of food products, at the the most fundamental level a food’s success depends on its flavor. While companies can study consumer data on the progress and outcome of their products, that information doesn’t precisely reflect how individuals feel about the food and what they think about its flavor. Startup FlavorWiki is using sensory feedback from consumers to document what they think about certain foods, and provide flavor “personas,” allowing manufacturers to review and revise the taste of their foods based on aggregated data.
Through FlavorWiki’s online platform, clients can create studies for their customers to input their thoughts about a particular food, like whether it’s too salty, sweet or has an unpleasant texture. FlavorWiki can be used either by stores looking to narrow down which food items consumers prefer, or by food manufacturers themselves, giving feedback about how to improve the flavor of a product. In addition to providing a format for interacting with the sensory preferences of customers, FlavorWiki reduces the cost of traditional tasting panels. Sensory panels, or organized tests for studying the taste of a product, are estimated to cost as much as $20,000 per test. Beyond that, they don’t allow for the continual input of new information, and data gathered them is limited to the scope of the study.
In addition to creating a platform for receiving sensory information from consumers, FlavorWiki also translates that feedback into meaningful data. Instead of providing companies with the direct responses of customers, the site notes important statistics about the overarching response to a food, and what attributes people did or didn’t like. This means that FlavorWiki can potentially reach conclusions like “the strawberry yogurt is 20% too sweet.” The startup can also develop general profiles of people with certain taste preferences, giving stores and food producers an overview of the variety of consumers they’re marketing to, and how to reach out to people with different sensory inclinations.