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In today’s fast-moving world, product life cycles are getting shorter and the need to invest in product development is increasing in order to remain competitive.

The Food and Consumer Testing Suite was awarded Best Business and Third Level Institution Collaboration at the 2019 Education Awards.

At FACTS we can help support your business by providing specialist advice on your products to ensure their success in the marketplace. The Food and Consumer Testing Suite (FACTS) offers the opportunity to create, develop, refine and improve your food or drink products.

At FACTS we have state-of-the-art facilities which offer fully equipped product development kitchens, sensory testing booths (utilising Compusense software), consumer research facilities, and a nutritional analysis laboratory. The staff at FACTS are highly experienced in the food and drinks industry and include sensory and nutritional experts as well as qualified chefs and academics. Our ongoing work in research and innovation helps ensure that we retain the cutting edge skills, knowledge and expertise to solve your problems and support your business development.

Our services include:

  • Product Development/Refinement/Reformulation
  • Product Benchmarking/Competitor Analysis
  • Sensory Evaluation & Testing
  • Customer Preference Analysis
  • Focus Groups
  • Shelf Life Testing & Measurements
  • Nutritional Evaluation & Composition
  • Observational Studies
  • Ingredient Substitution/Ingredient Modification Analysis

"Food manufacturers don’t always have access to affordable consumer testing facilities. It is increasingly important, especially for smaller food companies, that they identify and analyse the quality levers that effect shoppers and consumers choice before investing in expensive technology and product trials. FACTS provides access to a test kitchen development chefs and the testing facilities which are so vital for growth but often prohibitively expensive."

Gráinne Allen, Head of Product Development, Marks and Spencer.

Product Development Test Kitchens

The product development process is time consuming and costly as many products fail to make it onto the market or are successful for only a short period of time. FACTS aims to equip developers with the knowledge and skills needed to innovate, explore new ideas, screen product concepts and manage the development process, to increase the likelihood of product success. Our team of highly qualified chefs and nutritional experts can help create or refine the ingredient combination to develop the optimum food or drink product.

Our facilities include:

  • 14 Individual Fully Equipped Product Development Kitchens
  • 10 Computerised Sensory Booths
  • White Room (Consumer Research)
  • Industrial Kitchen
  • Operational Restaurant

"The facilities at the food and consumer testing suite are some of the best in the industry and I found working with the professional team very rewarding. At the Culinary food group we put the consumer at the heart of everything we do through the combining of culinary arts and food science. These facilities help us deliver that goal"

Dominic Darby, Group Business Development Manager, Culinary Food Group.

Product Testing Sensory Booths & Research Focus Groups

Sensory evaluation is now widely recognised within the food and drink industry as an essential business asset for reducing the likelihood of product failure and increasing consumer acceptance of, and preference for, a product.

At FACTS all sensory evaluation is conducted utilising the latest Compusense technology to analyse consumer preferences. With ten individual computerised sensory testing booths and linked preparation area, we measure, record and analyse a consumer’s response to all sensory stimuli, under the expert management of our experienced researchers in this controlled environment.

Through utilising our licenced Compusense software key questions can be investigated such as:

  • “Can I use a cheaper ingredient?”
  • “How does my brand compare to competitors?”
  • “What sensory attributes are important to consumers?”
  • “Does the product change during storage? How?”

In our White Room facility, research can be undertaken using focus groups and observational studies to listen, record and interpret all feedback from your customers to give you a complete understanding of your product. We can discover what consumers think about your product and uncover their preferences and perceptions about the product including taste, packaging, design, labelling and price.

What our business partners say about us:

“It was fantastic to receive the assistance of FACTS. Product testing and sensory analysis is something that is usually done in-house but the results and feedback have certainly got us thinking and we’ll definitely will be using sensory analysis to test even more new flavours in the future.”

Arnaldo Morelli, Morelli’s Ice Cream

“We engaged with FACTS for two projects; one for our Poultry division and one for Goodfella’s pizza. We were very impressed by the calibre of the staff who embraced the projects with enthusiasm and delivered work of a very high standard in a professional and timely manner. This facility was an invaluable resource and a key element of research and testing of products providing quality data that could be analysed against a number of parameters and target markets. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the University for future projects.”

Maura Carolan, NPD Manager, Green Isle Foods

“FACTS was pivotal to the development of our product. With their state of the art facilities the highly supportive staff were able to meet all our needs. They carried out first class sensory testing and provided exceptional advice for the improvement and growth of our product and business. The team worked ceaselessly to provide support. We would therefore highly recommend the services provided by Ulster University to any business.

Vanessa Rolls, Modern Nature

Contact Us

FACTS offers a tailor-made service to meet your specific requirements – whether it’s practical product development, quality control, legislation on product labelling, bench-marking, marketing or consumer testing. Our team of experts are highly experienced in the food and drinks industry having worked with a range of local, national and international companies. Our services are available at competitive rates and our facilities are open throughout the week. Our team can also help and advise you of government funded programmes available to support businesses and universities working together in the development of innovative solutions from initial £4,000 consultancy vouchers to longer term 60% project funding.

Dr Amy Burns
(FACTS Director and Centre Manager)
Amy has considerable experience of working with private food and drink companies across the UK and Ireland. Areas of expertise include: nutrition and food innovation, sensory evaluation of food and drink products and survey analysis.

Dr Sinead Furey
Lecturer in Consumer Management and Food Innovation. Sinead’s specialisms include: food andconsumer policy, legislation and regulation, and areas of expertise include: dietary health, nutrition surveillance, and research skills in focus groups, shopping diaries, interviews and survey analysis.

Dr Lynsey Hollywood
Lecturer in Consumer Management and Food Innovation. Lynsey’s specialisms include: food promotions, food marketing, product development and consumer behaviour. Her research skills include: focus groups, observational studies, interviews and survey design.