Fresh Thinking

Curion: First Impressions – Prepared Foods

Curion: First Impressions – Prepared Foods 150 150 Katie Maslanka

A consumer’s embrace of a new brand begins before they ever try the product. If the packaging is inappropriate, brand acceptance can fail and consumers may not choose the product to start with. That’s why first impressions matter.

For example, in a FoodDive article on packaging fails, there is the story about Sun Chips’ biodegradable bag made from plants. What Millennial wouldn’t love that? But sales began to decline shortly after launch because the bag made a loud “grumbling” noise that consumers said reminded them of a jet engine or lawnmower. It even spawned a Facebook group called “Sorry but I can’t hear you over this Sun Chips bag.”

This is just the type of scenario Curion can help brands avoid. A well-respected partner to leading consumer brands in the area of product and sensory testing, Curion is now turning its research and consumer expertise toward packaging.

“We believe in a holistic approach,” says Sean Bisceglia, Curion’s CEO. “All elements of a brand’s offering — the product, positioning, messaging and the package itself — need to tell a cohesive story, one that gives consumers a reason-to-believe that this product is the right one for them.”

The goal of Curion’s consumer driven package design approach is to develop the ultimate prototype and test its viability with consumers. This rigorous system, designed by Curion’s Andrew Livermore PhD, Senior Vice President for Product and Client Services, is already available at Curion sites across the nation.

Says Livermore, “Big CPG companies spend a lot of time and money developing products, but the packaging often doesn’t get the same emphasis. We work alongside brand marketers, designers, and product developers, taking them through a six-step process that identifies the functional and emotional benefits most important to the target consumers. This informs the creation of packaging prototypes with strong consumer appeal that reinforce the concept and positioning. We then put prototypes in front of consumer panels and even gain insights from large-scale confirmatory testing.”

For example, sustainable packaging is also imperative today for many retailers like Wal-Mart who have set high standards, demanding that packaging for their private brands be recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Adds Livermore, “Our process answers questions such as: Is the product positioned for sustainability? Does the packaging reflect those values? You may not want a health bar in a non-recyclable package. ”

Curion’s consumer-driven packaging design approach addresses the above questions and drills down into others, such as:

•    Does package design fit your product concept?

•    Does it take a creative approach to restraints such as budget, time to market, and types of materials?

•    Can it be executed without unreasonable demands?

•    Does it reflect the appropriate functional and emotional benefits?

•    Is it differentiated from competitors?

•    Does it check all the boxes for sensory appeal on the shelf?

“The main goal of our packaging research,” adds Mr. Bisceglia, “is to mitigate risk on behalf of our clients. We are thorough. Our approach combines qualitative and quantitative methodologies.”

Curion’s Qualitative Sensory Immersion (QSI) identifies key features that enhance product trial and repeat purchase through collaboration with articulate and involved consumers. Adds Livermore, “Using this tool for packaging allows us to tap attributes such as alignment with brand, concept, the products function, ergonomics, usability, materials, believability, sustainability and quality. We also learn what is most important to them and what drives them crazy. All these insights get built into our prototypes.”

“On the quantitative side,” he adds, “we recruit consumers from our extensive database. They provide feedback on prototypes regarding overall liking, drivers of consumer appeal, fit to product concept, uniqueness and emotional profile. The value of this Qual-Quant method is that it combines the rich learnings from talking and interacting with consumers — backed by the numerical validation that comes from data analytics. This helps transform packaging concepts into best-possible prototypes that have strong consumer appeal.”

Curion is a leader in sensory and consumer product research and serves Fortune 500 and other blue-chip customers in the food & beverage, personal care, fine fragrance, and home & fabric care industries. In 2018 alone, the company tested 97,000 consumers in its facilities in California, Chicago, Dallas, and New Jersey. Curion’s data analytics give brand owners what they need most: product readiness for launch, consumer purchase decision process, competitive landscape and more.

The result of a merger between Q Research Solutions and Tragon Corp., Curion brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the consumer and sensory science industry. The company pioneered many of the sensory methodologies considered industry standards today, including Quantitative Descriptive Analysis (QDA)®  and Partnership Solutions (PS).

Visit for more information.

Curion: First Impressions
Curion applies its research lens to consumer-driven package design
21 May 2019


Yuck or yum? Product testing with children – FoodNavigator-USA

Yuck or yum? Product testing with children – FoodNavigator-USA 150 150 Katie Maslanka

Do kids always prefer sweeter products than adults? And are children’s palates really more conservative, or have we ‘trained’ them to like a limited set of flavors (banana, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry) by playing it safe with new launches? And how do you conduct product testing with three-year olds?

For a start, said Keren Novack, VP sensory and consumer insights at Deerfield, IL-based consumer insights and product testing specialist Curion​, CPG companies need to develop products that parents will like as much as their kids, even if they are not the target consumer.

“A lot of products we test that are geared towards children are also tested with parents, because very rarely does a parent give something to a young child that they have not first tested themselves,”​ she told FoodNavigator-USA.

“As far as the taste goes, how the children rate it matters the most, but you want to make sure that the product is not rejected by the parents.”

If parents and​ very young children consistently prefer product A over product B, meanwhile, the more detailed answers that the adults are able to provide on specific product attributes might help clients unpack what is determining liking among the kids, which three-year olds may not be able to articulate if you ask them, she said.

Children can be much more adventurous than we give them credit for​

So what about flavor preferences? Are kids as conservative as we think? It’s hard to say because packaged food companies – unlike parents trying to get their kids to eat veggies at home – want to make products that kids will embrace immediately, not something that they might like after repeated exposure, which can encourage an inherent conservatism, said Novack.

Put another way, if we only expose kids to a limited number of flavors, they will inevitably have a less adventurous palate, she speculated.

“Children can be much more adventurous than we give them credit for. What I’ve found from personal experience is that if you just put broccoli or whatever the new food is on the plate every meal, then after a while they might eat it.

“But if you’re buying a snack for your child’s lunchbox, you are often scared if kids don’t like something straightaway as you don’t want to waste time and money and you want them to eat, so you can tend to stick to the more familiar products.

“It’s also why products have a lot of sugar added because it increases the likelihood that the children will like them straightaway. But you wonder if that is because we’ve just exposed them to so much sugar.”

Do kids like food with ‘bits’?​

The same might also apply to texture, she postulated. If you give babies “mushy​” pureed foods for any length of time, could this make them more suspicious of different textures?

With the baby led weaning movement, where you’re encouraged to expose them to pieces of food off your plate earlier, I have to think that the exposure to those different textures might impact what they end up liking later.”

She added: “One thing I also warn my clients is that if you just take one or two bites of something in a testing booth, you can often prefer a product with more sugar or a stronger flavor, but if you were to take the product home and eat the entire box, the flavor build and development can be very different, so you have to factor that in. The sweeter products often win out in early testing, but I think we are seeing a shift now.”

Blind taste testing​

While packaged food is not consumed ‘blind’ (it always comes in a package with branding and messaging which can have a huge impact on how its contents are perceived), there is still value in blind testing at the product development phase, said Novack.

We always say that marketing will do all the work to get people to buy a product the first time, but that our our job​ ​[for Curion’s CPG clients] is to get people to buy the product a second time.​ So when you’re considering different prototypes or you want to know how your product stacks up against the competition, blind testing is very important.”

If your product performs better in blind taste tests than a rival brand with stronger sales, for example, you might need to look again at your packaging or marketing.

One interesting phenomenon, said Novack, is that the market leading product is not always the most liked product in blind taste tests with adults, whereas with kids, that is more likely to be the case.

“We’ve had kids say, ‘Excuse me, I don’t like this,’ and push it back through the window,” says Curion VP sensory and consumer insights, Keren Novack. “Kids are not afraid to tell you the truth.”

The logistics of product testing with children​

When it comes to designing tests, “obviously what a six-year-old can handle is very different from what an 18-year old can handle, so with adults we’ll use a nine point hedonic scale, whereas for younger kids we may use a three-point scale for liking but also for things like flavors, colors, and textures,” ​she said.

“Was the flavor too strong, too weak, or just about right? 

One thing we’ve also noticed is that adults tend to have what we call ‘end scale avoidance’ and are almost afraid to mark the very highest point, whereas if a kid likes something they will often give it the highest mark. But that can make it hard to compare two products they like.”

So what about babies and toddlers?

“We’ve actually done tests with children that are just a year old, and when you’re talking about a child that young, they are obviously not filling in a questionnaire on a computer,” ​joked Novack. “Rather the parents are looking for cues from their children as to whether they like something or not. However, at that age it’s quite simply will they eat it, but you can also see which ones they choose from a selection of products.

“For particularly young children you can have an interviewer read some questions and the older children get the more complex you can make the scale. If I have a 12 or 13 year old in sitting a testing booth however, I’d consider putting them on the similar scales to the adults.”

Can you train your kids to love broccoli?​

Find out at FoodNavigator-USA’s FOOD FOR KIDS summit​ in Chicago November 18-20, where delegates can hear from Dr Catherine Forestell, associate professor, at the department of psychological sciences at William & Mary, who will explore when and how children’s flavor preferences are developed, why children prefer or dislike certain foods, and whether we can shift these hardwired preferences through early sensory experience.

You can also learn more about product testing with Curion and others in our new panel session: Yuck or Yum: Product testing with kids.

Get full details about the summit​​ HERE​​​.



FOOD FOR KIDS: Yuck or yum? Product testing with children
By Elaine Watson
03 May 2019

Curion adds 3 Sensory & Consumer Experts.

Curion adds 3 Sensory & Consumer Experts. 150 150 Katie Maslanka

Curion3 = Exponential Talent for Curion

We are very excited to add Anthony, Rebecca, and Sheri to our team!


Anthony Walton
 Sensory & Consumer Insights Manager 

Anthony puts his relationships with clients above all else, valuing a collaborative approach for all projects.  He comes to Curion with 11 years of experience in the market research industry, spanning both the supplier and client side of the aisle. Anthony has primarily focused in the food and beverage sector but also has experience in home and personal care.  Through a workbook of various methodologies, he has helped a number of Fortune 500 companies build and maintain successful portfolios.  From his experience working onsite for various clients Anthony has gained an appreciation for the nuances involved in working with cross-functional teams to answer project objectives for all business units involved.  Anthony holds a BS from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Rebecca Maine
Senior Manager, Sensory & Consumer Insights

Rebecca’s tenured career experience in CPG companies provide her with a holistic understanding of the product development process. She has a proven track record of utilizing this background to construct sensory and consumer science programs to guide an array of product development initiatives. Rebecca relies on proven methods and innovative thinking to design tests that yield successful results. Rebecca holds an MS from the Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Food Sciences with a heavy emphasis in her studies on sensory science.

Sheri Forzley
SVP, Consumer & Sensory Sciences

Sheri values a holistic approach to research incorporating various qualitative and quantitative methods to develop an insightful story with the data. It is her belief that this in-depth understanding of what drives consumer delight should be at the heart of all product design and product development efforts. Sheri comes to Curion with over 25 years of research experience. She has spent 15 years in global and regional leadership positions spanning categories from personal care to confections. Sheri received her PhD in Physiological Psychology from Texas Tech University, followed by a 3 year post-doctoral position at Monell Chemical Senses Center.

2018 SSP Conference

2018 SSP Conference 150 150 Katie Maslanka

2018 SSP Conference
September 26-28
Cleveland, Ohio

Tuesday September 25, 2018



The Curion Team raises a toast to celebrate our time together and SSP’s 10 Year Anniversary.




Wednesday September 26, 2018






We can’t resist a little sensory evaluation
of donuts and coffee.








we went out and explore the town together




We really enjoyed connecting with our sensory colleagues to share and discuss new ideas.




SSP is truly a great community and this year was extra special for Curion as we were able to showcase our new brand.




Our team presented four posters and watched our own Caryn Crawford in the Context Throw Down.

Leveraging context evaluations for product guidance

What plays a bigger role in purchase decision, the environmental context or the sensory characteristics of the product within the category (product context) ?



Sensory testing traditionally involves explicit, self-report ratings of products’ taste, smell, touch, etc. However, advances in psychology and neuroscience indicate that humans also react implicitly to such stimuli. In other words, we have automatic, nonconscious, System 1 responses.

Curion and Emotive Analytics collaborated to explore how targeted consumers implicitly reacted to and explicitly evaluated several product categories (both fragrance and food/beverage).

We used an adaptation of the Affect Misattribution Procedure (AMP) to study System 1 reactions to products. The AMP has amassed impressive credentials over the past 10 years in part because it does not rely on reaction time. AMP is an indirect method; meaning respondents are primed with a stimulus of interest then asked about something else.

Although most of the implicit and explicit feelings were consistent across the products, some were not. Both consistencies and inconsistencies informed go-or-no-go decisions, as well as potential improvements that were not meeting strategic emotional goals.

Diagnostic Descriptive Analysis

Many client companies are searching for a method that will quickly guide product development for prototype revision or for choosing products to move to the next research step.

Diagnostic Descriptive Analysis is a method created by the authors of Curion Quantitative Descriptive Analysis (QDA)®. DDA uses a condensed consumer based language allowing rapid and reliable decisions for the next stage of product development.


  • Curion’s Quantitative Descriptive Analysis (QDA)® is a behavioral descriptive analysis approach where panel members, who are users and likers of the category, measure a product’s sensory similarities and differences using the developed everyday consumer language.
  • Traditionally, QDA is conducted with product evaluations on-site. However many research objectives and categories (e.g. personal care products) necessitate evaluations in an off-site location [i.e. Home Use Testing (HUT)].
  • This research demonstrates how Curion QDA, typically conducted on-site, can be used for products traditionally evaluated in a Home Use Test.

A Qualitative Approach

  • Refining concepts and products during early innovation can prove to be a struggle for developers and marketers. Crafting a promising concept into a product that meets expectations, promotes trial and delivers on repeat purchase often involves trial, error, time, money and frustration.
  • Developers are often faced with:
    • Formulating a product experience to meet a concept with very little technical guidelines
    • Shorter timelines to launch
    • Less available resources for multiple rounds of consumer testing
  • In response to these needs, Curion created Qualitative Sensory Immersion (QSI)®, a sensory immersive technique which is qualitative in nature, steeped in sensory principles, and is constructed as an iterative approach.
  • This case study shows how a client was able to use QSI to engineer a refrigerated product which was satisfying and delivered on the freshness proposition.

Thursday September 27, 2018



We are profoundly grateful to the Society of Sensory Professionals & the city of Cleveland for hosting the 2018 SSP Conference!





To request information please contact Katerina Maslanka.

Curion is ready for 2018 SSP!

Curion is ready for 2018 SSP! 612 1008 Katie Maslanka

The team at Curion is super excited about participating in the upcoming 2018 SSP Conference in Cleveland.

We can’t wait to reveal our newly branded booth, display our poster presentations and participate in the “Context Throwdown.”

We’re looking forward to seeing and speaking with you in Cleveland. Stop by our booth #10, you might just get a charge out of it. Curious?


The Curion Team

Proven Methods. Fresh Thinking.