Imagining Ingredients: Takasago’s Research and Creative Philosophy

by Nick Roskelly
Takasago International Corp., Rockleigh, N.J., continues to be innovative in flavors, fragrances, fine and aroma chemicals. Dave Ingersoll, corporate vice president of fragrance and flavors for Consumer Insight & Marketing Research (CIMR) shares the progressive marketing and research efforts Takasago employs to better understand its customers.
Tell us a little about what you do at Takasago.
Dave Ingersoll: An essential role of CIMR is to provide the voice of the consumer to the creative teams. For me, this advisory or consultancy role is performed on a global basis. The challenge is to standardize multi-cultural consumer research activities so that the elusive global product can be identified as early in the process as possible.
My key challenges are to strategically align consumer research objectives with the business objectives while involving the consumer as a strategic partner throughout the creative development process.
How exactly do you go about determining which flavors and fragrances consumers prefer?
Dave Ingersoll: With Takasago’s consumer centric philosophy, the number one priority is to involve the targeted consumer as early in the creative development process as possible. Essentially, Takasago uses the consumer more as a partner with repeated testing instead of a judge and jury with one confirmatory test at the end of the project. With the consumer centric approach, our creative team can have more meaningful interactions with our clients as the project advances. Hence at Takasago, marketing research is learning for the creative team, and our learning is an interactive and iterative process. We prefer to fail early in order to succeed sooner.
How do you develop any new/experimental research concepts that Takasago currently applies?
Dave Ingersoll: The bottom line in developing winning new concepts is to capture the imagery generated by the consumer. By imagery, I am referring to the emotions, memories, destinations, similes, etc., consumers use in describing a flavor or fragrance. One realizes quite quickly in marketing research that consumers lack the language to express their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, etc. about the test sample that just experienced.
With the qualitative approach at Takasago, images are generated by having consumers first generate collages and then generate stories around the collages — I love a good consumer-derived story. With these “stories” in mind, quantitative studies can be performed with many creative concepts — anywhere from 16-24 creative concepts.  Critical is the diversity of these concepts and the questionnaire used to probe for imagery, and hopefully derived from the qualitative research.
Once you’ve conducted research, how does the backend of the process evolve into applicable information and data?
Dave Ingersoll: Essential to CIMR’s success was to move away from the traditional MR data dump of tables and graphs with pages and pages of statistics for decision making — both the creative and business teams. In essence, the data dump has been replaced with one-page perceptual map containing the consumer perceptions and reactions to either flavors or fragrances.
The perceptual maps used at Takasago are typically generated by correspondence analysis and not by either factor analysis or principle component analysis. Perceptual maps generated by correspondence analysis are more intuitive for the creative team, and allows us to easily create a “personality” for each flavor or fragrance in the study. These constructed “personalities” provide the creative team with stories to better understand and modify their candidates.
Which flavors and fragrances are moving from niche consumer groups to a more mainstream population?
Dave Ingersoll: Consumers indulge in the comfort of rich “edible” scents, such as honey, brown sugar and fresh-baked goods. In the floral category white florals such as jasmine and tuberose have become predominant players. Orange flower, traditionally very European, is now being used across many U.S. product categories — consumers find the note to be very comforting and “beachy”.
Nick Roskelly is managing editor of Stagnito’s New Products Magazine.