Standards for Sensing

Cicely Enright

Sensory evaluation — including how to understand reactions at their simplest: “I like this,” “I don’t like that” and what is noticeable about products (using naïve or trained respondents) — has become a mature scientific discipline over the last several decades. And as sensory evaluation has become an integral part of product development and availability, the ASTM International sensory evaluation committee (E18) has developed numerous standards that have become central to the field. 

The standards of the sensory evaluation committee provide an important resource for sensory and consumer research professionals globally. Committee chair Bethia Margoshes, Ph.D., notes, “The standards are also widely used by those in adjacent fields, including by those developing and testing consumer products.”

Margoshes says that E18 standards are rigorous, and receive broad input and insight. “These methods are updated regularly, and new methods are developed, to continue to advance our field,” she says.

READ MORE: Light a Candle for Safety

Evaluating red pepper heat? There’s a standard for that (E1083). Describing skin creams and lotions? There’s a standard for that (E1490). Methods for the duo trio and triangle tests? There are standards for that (E2610 and E1885, respectively). And there are more. 

Margoshes points to three standards as being the most used. These include:

1) Terminology Relating to Sensory Evaluation of Materials and Products (E253)

From “absolute judgment” to “vision,” and with dozens of terms in between, this standard provides the definitions – and the understanding – of terms used in the field, at times with explanation discussion.

2) Guide for Sensory Claim Substantiation (E1958)

Also known as advertising claims guidelines, this guide describes best practices for designing and implementing sensory tests related to product sensory or perceptual attributes – or both. A claim states the advantages of a product, perhaps over another, to enhance its standing in the marketplace.

3) Test Method for Same-Different Test (E2139)

A method used to compare two products, when the objective is to determine whether a sensory difference exists or does not exist between them. This method could be used to determine if product change is noticeable to consumers.

The committee has also published a range of manuals including Physical Requirement Guidelines for Sensory Evaluation Laboratories (2nd edition, MNL 60), and in total, oversees 40 standards. Several more are underway, to assist with selecting assessors, conducting focus groups and in-depth interviews, small group product evaluations, evaluating coffee and tea products, and more. 

All those interested are invited to become part of the committee and help develop sensory evaluation standards. And other ASTM committees that have standards with human assessments are also welcome to discuss possible collaboration with the committee. “Participating in E18 is one of the best ways a young sensory scientist can jump-start their career. You can continue to develop and grow your skills and expertise throughout,” Margoshes says. “Relationships made in ASTM E18 truly last a lifetime.”

Industry Sectors