FlavorActiV’s multi-lingual global team are responsible for the sensory needs of the world’s largest beverage brand owners. Our work within beverage quality control is focused around the world and throughout the supply chain.
Taster Proficiency, as it’s known, is the measurement tool by which FlavorActiV regularly validate the sensory abilities of tasting panels at over 2100 sites in almost all beverage sectors. The tool provides participating sites with live access to their taster’s data, which can be broken down and presented in a multitude of ways to give a full picture of sensory performance over time.
From our state-of-the-art MHRA and FDA audited pharmaceutical facility in the UK, FlavorActiV produce taster training capsules, considered to be the ‘industry standard’ of flavour standards, and all produced and certified to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices). When added to a beverage the encapsulated flavour references will impart an off-note, taint or positive flavour that’s both safe to smell and taste. Once a taster is trained on flavours relevant to their sector, they will have an understanding of not only the taste, smell and mouthfeel of certain flavours, but also an understanding of how they might occur in the final product. For example, a beer taster trained on FlavorActiV’s Butyric flavour will recognise the flavour and be able to trace its origins back to, potentially, bacteria formed during wort production, sugar syrups during storage or in bacterial spoilage of packaged beer.
Taster Proficiency takes this knowledge a step further and validates the established learnings a taster has gained. The idea is simple, blind tasting packs of FlavorActiV’s GMP Flavour Standards are sent out to sensory panels around the world at specified intervals, these packs align with a series of tests that challenge flavour identification, whether a sample is in or out of specification, and intensity scoring. Once a panel tasting session is complete the panel leaders will submit results and be presented with a detailed breakdown of individual and panel performance across the entire organisation.
Tasters are the QC backbone of the beverage industry and it’s incredibly powerful for a panel leader or organisation to have ongoing insight into internal tasting abilities, as it is for individual tasters to be able to validate their own abilities. With the learnings these bring companies can organise to have their ‘aces in their places’ and equally to implement specific learning sessions where gaps might be spotted.
The programme is flexible depending on individual needs and desired outcomes.
There are three tests to support continued training:
￫ Flavour Identification – test ability to identify flavours
￫ IN/OUT – test ability to identify defects outside of product quality specification
￫ Rank Rating – test ability to scale the intensity of flavours
The benefits are numerous, here are just some of them:
￫ Validating sensory panels confirms performance, thereby reducing risk of undesirable product release
￫ Comprehensive feedback from across whole organisation
￫ Focused training means a reduction in costs by tailoring specialised training programmes to each and every panel and panellist
￫ Panels and individuals learn their strengths and weaknesses and can hone skills accordingly
￫ Training encourages staff retention and is attractive to new talent
￫ Training across an organisation improves staff loyalty and product awareness
→ At regular intervals determined by the customer, a proficiency testing Taster Validation pack will be sent out to all sites containing all of the tools needed to test and validate a sensory panel.
→ All customers are assigned an appropriate Global Sensory Manager (in terms of location and languages spoken) who will provide additional guidance and follow up training as required.
→ GMP Taster Validation Flavour Standards in blind colour coded capsules
→ Easy-to-use, multilingual, responsive, browser-based software for data entry, result processing and feedback of your results
The Taster Validation and Proficiency programme allows the analysis of tasting data from a single sensory panellist through to the evaluation of an entire company with only a few clicks. Automatically generated reports allow panel leaders to quickly compare and rate performance against other panels.
Easy to understand and visually accessible, these tools provide large amounts of contextual data quickly and efficiently – even with complex data such as flavour scaling.
Built to software industry standards using the latest systems and securely encrypted at site and during transmission to keep your data safe on-line and offline, the FlavorActiV Taster Validation and Proficiency programme is developed with assessors and taste panel leaders in mind. Easy, intuitive and fast, tasters will spend more time tasting products than analysing data or fighting with software options and configurations.
The programme is entirely web based so there is no need to install apps or worry about system integration. The software is fully compatible with legacy browsers as well as modern systems.
Above are only a few examples of how the system reports sensory panel performance. A number of unique and effective tools have been implemented to help customers fully understand results and required actions.
The Taster Validation and Proficiency programme also supports independent and artisan producers to help them assess sensory panel performance. In this scheme participant panels within a similar industry are able to compare performance anonymously against other panels, providing the same sensory feedback and other benefits, but on a smaller scale to the multinationals.
The chart below shows the average results over the course of four and a half years of a single taster taking part in FlavorActiV Proficiency. Its curve displays the initial learning and eventual maintenance of a tasting skill set with a regular scoring above 90%.
Human sensory for quality control remains the most efficient, effective method of managing quality issues. Through continual investment in taster validation FlavorActiV have shown that in the same manner that you calibrate a technical instrument, tasters must also fine tune their abilities to ensure they operate at their best - participation in FlavorActiV proficiency being the human calibration tool to do the job.
Proficiency demonstrations are available in advance upon request, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2019 with over 2.5 million responses to samples logged and over 1200 rounds completed, TVS was proving to be an essential tool for beverage brand owners globally. However, it was also seven years into its lifecycle, and the wealth of knowledge gained showed where further features and value could be added. Therefore, in late 2019 FlavorActiV launched TVS2, a complete refresh of the platform to ensure the Taster Validation Schemes exceed user expectations.
As well as moving to fast, scalable cloud infrastructure, the web software that powers proficiency is now mobile friendly, allowing tasting panellists to submit their own results via mobile devices thanks to a link their panel leader can send out. The panel leader of course has the final oversight to submit responses when ready but the requirement to print ballot sheets and then manually submit results is removed, saving both time and paper.
The aesthetics received an overhaul, becoming more aligned with FlavorActiV’s own website, whilst subtle user interface improvements have made the experience as efficient and simple as possible. On top of this, the technicalities of the system have been enhanced; participants can add more flavours, can access more detailed reports, can have more control over their start and close dates for a round, and will find clever new tools like panel collusion management built in.
Proficiency is a powerful product, now relied upon by most of the major beverage brand owners around the world, it applies whether measuring a global brewer with many sites or a craft beer community seeing how their tasting ability compares with other craft players around the world. Committing to real, data empowered sensory quality control is best practice and it has been exciting to get our newly updated browser-based proficiency tools into the hands of existing and new customers alike.