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What is the dollar value of a food sensation?

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 23-Mar-2011
Last updated on 24-Mar-2011 at 17:59 GMT2011-03-24T17:59:09Z

What is the dollar value of a food sensation?

A new market research technique could help product developers and marketers discover the amount people will pay for specific food attributes, according to a presentation at the Research Chefs Association conference.

Dr. Howard Moskowitz, author, market research techniques development specialist, and former mathematician, asked an audience of research chefs at the recent RCA conference in Anaheim, California: “What is the dollar value of a good taste, a good texture, a food that satisfies you?... And how can we design an experiment?”

He explained that there is no perfect potato chip, or food flavor – different people like different characteristics in foods – but in product development, it is important to understand if there are specific groups of people who will pay more for certain flavors or textures and how to target them.

Moskowitz calls his market research technique ‘Mind Genomics’, explaining “It’s about sequencing the genome of the consumer’s mind.”

He has developed a survey format for ‘sequencing the genome’ – or working out what sort of preferences a person has and how much they are willing to pay for them – that involves decoding how they behave in the grocery store based on economics, emotions and mental constructs.

Using online panel survey website Survey Savvy, Moskowitz has developed a survey method that presents product descriptions, in pairs, which explain different attributes to the consumer.

When presenting snack food attributes, for instance, he presented 48 combinations of two statements describing a product, and asked participants to rate how interested they were. Next, the survey asked participants how much they were willing to pay for the product.

“People always talking about how important is a taste or smell or texture…So there are two questions: How interested are you in this and how much would you pay?”

He has found that the answer to that question depends very much on who you are.

“For women, for every increase in units of liking, females are willing to pay an extra 70 cents. Men will pay an extra 86 cents. The more children people have, the more they are willing to pay per unit of liking,” he said.

Moskowitz said that because of the mixed presentation of ideas, it is not possible for people to ‘game’ the data, or be politically correct.

“When we create products this is going to allow us to better fine tune these products,” he said.

However, he added: “We are probably likely to see this in Asia earlier than in the United States…They are hungry, and don’t have a lot of ‘we have always done it this way’.”

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