AI-Driven NPD: Achieve the Perfect Balance of Taste, Texture, and Aroma

Written by Peter Coucquyt - 29.03.2023

What Factors Should You Consider in Your New Product Development?

New product development is never easy for CPG companies because it takes something truly special to stand out and corner a piece of the market. One necessary component of a successful new product concept is that it should be well-balanced so that it can create a holistic consumer experience that has depth and invites intrigue.

In this article, we’ll examine how to think about well-balanced product concepts and how you can create them in your business.

Achieving Product Concept Harmony: The Key to Success

Once you have selected interesting aromatic pairings for your new product, it’s then up to you to balance taste and texture so that you can add depth and dimension to your creation.

Finding this balance may sound simple in theory, but it’s often the most difficult part of new product development – especially when you’re thinking about it in the context of your entire product portfolio.

Even when 80% of our eating and drinking experience is dependent on aroma, the remaining 20% is due to taste and texture. You can’t build a new product based on complementary aromas alone, specially on categories such as confectionery, where flavor is not going to be enough to stand out in the competitive market.

All of these factors contribute in their own way to the overall experience and they should be given the thought and attention they deserve.

Put simply, by incorporating ingredients with contrasting tastes and textures, you can add important layers of depth and dimensions to your new product concepts. When done well, you ensure that there is not one factor that is overpowering the others, and you can achieve a much more satisfying experience for your consumers.

Contrasting Aromas: Elevating Your New Product Concept

As mentioned above, the first step to a great new product concept is finding those complementary aromas that are going to serve as the base for what you’re creating. Here at Foodpairing, we’ve spent years building a powerful tool that allows you to access our ingredient pairing data so that you can find the right aromas for your new product concept, backed by real data.

This data can be more efficiently collected and utilized if you leverage the power of digital twins. Digital twins are a revolutionary technology that allows CPG food companies to achieve much more precise product research that goes a long way to optimizing product portfolios and the balance of individual products themselves. This technology leverages synthetic data which is used as a proxy for real customer data which can be very difficult and expensive to come by. 

Product Concept aromas

Using this data effectively can give you the insights you need to balance your aromas and arrive at a unique new product concept that has legs in the marketplace. In fact, it can even unearth new ideas and combinations that you might never have considered before – giving you the chance to jump on new innovations before your competitors.

Finding the Right Contrasting Tastes for Your New Product Concept

The first thing to understand here is the key distinction between taste and flavor. Taste refers to our ability to detect the sensations of what we refer to as the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. All the ingredients that you’ll use for your new product concept will be characterized by one or several of these taste profiles. When you’re crafting your new concept, you’ll want to add at least one (or more) contrasting tastes so that you can arrive at a balanced final product.

In the diagram below, you’ll see double-sided arrows that indicate which tastes are counterparts of one another, and can therefore be used to achieve a balanced sensory experience. For example, if you’re using a particularly salty ingredient, you can balance that with something bitter.

Product Concept balance taste

Dark chocolate and a pinch of salt can work wonders together in a chocolate cake. Or think about the sensation when you bite into an Oreo cookie, these are both good examples of contrasting tastes coming together to make a well-balanced concept. The same holds true for sweet and sour – ie. you can reduce the intensity of a sweet dessert by countering it with something sour.

Apart from the 5 basic tastes, your tongue can also experience a range of other sensations not yet mentioned. The pungency of chili is perhaps the most familiar of these. That feeling of chili is not a taste in the technical sense because the sensation is not arising from the tastebuds themselves.

Other sensations include the burn of alcohol, the fattiness of butter, the coolness of mint, the astringency of tannins in red wine, the numbness brought about by Sichuan peppercorns, kokumi, and so on. 

It’s important to take these all into account when you’re trying to balance your new product concept because they also interact with the basic tastes and can make a big difference to how your eventual customer will experience the product.

Creating Sensory Delight: Balancing Texture in Your Product Concept

Texture is another crucial part of the equation and as eaters, we are especially sensitive to the textures inherent in the foods that we consume, and even the things that we drink. Many of the most memorable and enjoyable products that we consume are the ones that exhibit a variety of textures, whereas the more boring ones are typically those that lack differentiated textures such as baby food puree. Texture, therefore, is an important factor to consider in NPD.

Product Concept texture

We’ve identified 60 different types of textures that can be categorized into two main groups: soft textures and crispy textures. When you’re developing a new product it is a good idea to incorporate at least one contrasting texture from each of these categories to add depth.

Countless pairings prove this point including chips and guacamole, French fries and ketchup, or mousse served with a crumble. All of these are well-balanced because they give us textural variety that makes the world of difference to how we experience what we’re eating.

How to Predict Whether Your New Product Concept Will Work?

At the end of the day, a well-balanced new product concept is one that is customer-centric, and backed by data. Predicting whether consumers will like what you create is an art and a science, one that we’re passionate about.

digital twins

Our liking model selects digital twins of your target audience and predicts how much those consumers will like your new product concept before you’ve spent all that time and money to create it. By basing this data on real consumers within your target audience, you can bring the customer into the middle of the development process at a fraction of the cost of customer co-creation, testing panels, focus groups, and other consumer validation methodologies.

digital twin of a consumer

Instead of having to run non-scalable processes which chew up time and resources, you can rapidly iterate on large data sets that give you answers much quicker and more effectively.

This means that you can be much more precise with aromas, tastes, textures, and all the other components – enabling quicker and more effective new product development. In effect, you’ll end up with a more balanced product portfolio that is robust to the change and uncertainty of the modern CPG landscape.

How to Achieve Better Customer Centricity Through the Use of Digital Twins

Digital twins are a revolutionary technology that allows CPG food companies to achieve much more precise product research that goes a long way to optimizing product portfolios and the balance of individual products themselves.

In addition, this data can be important for expanding faster and more effectively to international markets – which gives you better geographical balance as well – a key concern for rapidly growing companies operating in a truly globalized supply chain.

This data encapsulates the key insights about your customer base that you need, but at a much larger scale, giving you the ability to speed up your iterations, gather more dynamic feedback, and train more advanced machine learning algorithms.

All of this serves to shorten lead times and lower costs without compromising on quality. In fact, it can even unearth new ideas and combinations that you might never have considered before – giving you the chance to jump on new innovations before your competitors.