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Sensory Ingredients: Aesthetics Connect with Consumers

By: Daniela Prinz
Posted: March 25, 2013, from the April 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • Innovation can be driven by developing new methods to gain insight into consumer expectations and demands.
  • The emotional appeal of a product can be increased through a pleasant texture, a soft feel on the skin or through appealing scents.
  • The sensory properties of a product are paramount to its success on the market.

Consumers’ emotional perceptions of products have come to play a major role in their purchasing decisions—and beauty products are no exception. Consumers demand convenient, tailored solutions that contribute to improving or maintaining their health, physical appearance and overall well-being. And besides performing effectively, beauty products are increasingly expected to offer an additional emotional value that responds to people’s desires and has a positive impact on their quality of life.

The emotional appeal of a product can be increased, for example, through a pleasant texture, a soft feel on the skin or through appealing scents. Therefore, beauty brands are always on the lookout for new ingredients that help improve the performance of their products while also delivering further benefits that support efficient product positioning, even those targeting customer emotions.

BASF’s Personal Care business draws its inspiration for innovation from real life—by making consumers’ wants and needs an essential starting point for the continuous development of new products and concepts. Therefore—with focus on both market empathy and science excellence, including in-depth expertise in technology and research—BASF aims to develop concepts and ingredients that help its customers to meet both the functional and emotional needs of consumers.

Innovation can be driven by developing new methods to gain insight into consumer expectations and demands. These methods help reveal and clarify consumers’ perceptions of beauty ingredients and end-products, which in turn enables their appeal to be optimized. In particular, the sensory properties of a product are paramount to its success on the market. And it’s for this reason that research facilities with dedicated sensory labs are game-changers. These sensory labs are where experts explore the sensory properties of beauty products and develop new solutions based on consumers’ preferences. In BASF’s sensory labs, for example, employees trained as testing experts assess a wide range of ingredients and products for skin and hair—from shampoos and shower gels to creams and wipes—using a variety of testing methods.

To create a standardized evaluation system that facilitates an effective dialogue about sensations caused by beauty products or single ingredients, BASF created and trademarked Pillow Talk—a new testing method that compares how the skin feels after application of a cream or emollient, among other product types, with the surface of various pillows. The pillows, with their range of fabrics, allow apt and concise analogies for the aesthetic characteristic and feel of the formulas/products being tested. A test subject can equate velvety, silky or dry sensations, for example, with specific corresponding pillows, or combination of pillows. This method allows for a more objective assessment, using fabric to make it easier to differentiate between sensations. Test subjects do not have to express a verbal preference, but can choose one specific pillow surface or a combination of pillow surfaces that describes best the sensory feel of the products on their skin. This method removes the ambiguity of language—one consumer’s “silky,” as one example, may not mean the same thing or the same feel as another consumer’s “silky.”

Because of this, Pillow Talk can even be used to define how beauty product sensory properties are perceived around the world, where language barriers can be an issue. Among many other test methods, BASF also uses Pillow Talk when developing and evaluating formulations or stand-alone sensory ingredients. Direct outcomes of these comprehensive research procedures includes the development of new sensorial ingredients directly, such as BASF’s Cetiol SenSoft, a silicone alternative that delivers a light, silky sensation while offering long-lasting softness for a positive emotional response.

And with that response playing such a critical role in purchasing decisions, tailored and targeted sensorial attributes that complement performance claims are key in setting today’s brands apart and becoming consumers’ preferred choice.

For additional reading on sensorial ingredients, see “Addressing Desires of Target Consumers Through Ingredients” (also available in the August 2012 issue of GCI) and see “The Feel Good Factor in Skin Care” in the April 2013 issue of GCI sister publication Cosmetics & Toiletries).

Dr. Daniela Prinz is senior manager consumer perception, BASF Personal Care. Responsible for consumer perception since 2002, Prinz joined the cosmetic industry in 1997 and has held roles at Henkel and Cognis. She earned a PhD in chemistry (carbohydrate technology) and undertook postdoctoral work at Iowa State University.