Paintings and yoghurt

New projective methods help to discover the needs and expectations that influence consumers' choices

To a certain extent, consumers are influenced by conscious, rational factors. However, emotional factors, often subconscious, can have a much greater effect on their choice. The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, SIK, in collaboration with the marketing institute NFO, has developed a new quantitative method "ImpSense SIK" which helps to understand and predict these subconscious needs and expectations and at the same time link them to different product features.


The method is based on the integration of an analytical sensory and projectional market analysis; with the aid of images, the consumer describes or illustrates his or her sensory experience. The images are standardised and comprise non-figurative paintings, thus making it possible to circumvent the spoken word and pick up on subconscious needs and expectations.

The technique was developed as part of a pilot project dealing with yoghurt. In an introductory qualitative study, participants were interviewed in depth about their attitudes towards various yoghurt products.

With the aid of a statistical trial design, yoghurt products that demonstrated a broad variation in sensory features - such as differences in consistency - were manufactured. Partly with the aid of a trained sensory panel, a "fingerprint" of each product's sensory profile was produced. Additionally, each product's rheological features and microstructure were determined.

Consumers were allowed to sample these products and then were asked to relate their experiences and feelings to the abstract paintings, by choosing the paintings' sensory features or attributes they felt best illustrated the product. They also stated to which meal situation the products were best suited.

The study showed that there were four clearly distinct "sensory segments" linked to inner consumer needs and the daily consumer usage:

  • Creamy, bulky, filling yoghurt satisfied the need for enjoyment, engendered a slightly more luxurious feeling and was considered to be among yoghurt products intended for the weekend or as a dessert.

  • For breakfast on weekdays, less bulky, slightly thinner, and more acidic yoghurts were considered to be more beneficial and natural, and satisfied health and energy requirements.

  • Bulky, relatively thick, and slightly sweet yoghurt was designated "adult yoghurt", suitable as a snack between meals.

  • The drinkable, thin yoghurt was designated as yoghurt for children and young people, fitting into the "grab and go" category.

This new technology shows that by using multivariate analysis it is possible to find out how a product should be designed to satisfy different consumer demands and expectations in different eating situations.


The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology
Göteborg, Sweden
Annika Aström


Photo: © Jag_cz -