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New products live or die on marketplace acceptance: If a buyer likes your product, they’ll be back. If not, they won’t be.

Understanding why consumers like the things they like is complicated, though. There’s more to food than taste. There is a spectrum of experience.

And delivering the right experience makes all the difference.

“Everything we consume is tied into a sensory experience,” says Sergio Machado. As Roquette’s head of Customer Technical Services in the Americas, part of Machado’s job is to oversee the development of prototypes using NUTRALYS® plant ingredients.

“We develop prototypes so our customers can imagine what the future might taste like,” Machado says. “But it’s not just taste – we factor in the consumer experience. We consider the sensory stimuli that help consumers decide, ‘What is this?’ And – ‘Will I buy it again?’”

Great consumer experiences are designed with all five senses in mind: sight, smell, taste, touch and even sound.

“You have to design a product in such a way that it’s going to be familiar,” Machado says. Take product appearance: One oft-quoted study asked consumers to identify an orange-flavored drink that wasn’t orange colored. Most could not; they needed visual cues to shape their experience of “orange.”

It’s the same with protein products – alternatives especially, Machado says. A milk alternative needs to be white to help consumers experience it as milk. Its aroma should be neutral, and its texture should be smooth.

But meat plant-based meats – even those with similar ingredients – will need a different set of texture, aroma, and appearance attributes to create the right experience.

Even sound can play a role. “I’m from Honduras – my grandma used to feed me soup when I was young that had this meat in it I couldn’t eat,” Machado says. “It was rubbery; it made a squeaking sound when I chewed. That’s how I decided I didn’t like tripe; it was the sound of the experience.”

Formulators should consider all food’s sensory attributes when they develop for a certain market. But there’s more than the five senses to consider. There’s one key that ties them all together: Sequence.

“We call it the Sequential Order of Attribute Appearance,” says Machado. “Feedback from five senses – in a particular order. That’s what helps consumers make their minds up.”\That sequential order varies between food types. Take meats and plant-based meats: Diners first notice the color of their food (appearance), then its texture, flavor, and aroma as they take a bite. Milk and milk alternatives form the experience differently: Appearance still comes first, but aroma and taste come next with the texture of the experience being noticed later.

Coffee and plant-based coffee creamers require formulators to consider still another sensory experience: The coffee is first smelled, then seen, then tasted.

It’s the same five senses every time but in a different order. Mastering that order, says Machado, is what lets food makers create an experience consumers will keep coming back for.

“Emotions are what get people excited about your product,” he says. “We have to stir emotions.”

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