Key Takeaways

Traditional central location tests present products in controlled environments, often in sensory booths with uniform lighting, minimal noise, and no social interaction among participants. Yet product testing conducted in the absence of a real-world context may fail to capture critical factors in the product experience.

P&K has investigated a number of ways to introduce context in central location tests when testing at home or other actual usage environments is not feasible. The approaches have ranged from priming respondents with descriptions of a usage situation, altering the physical test environment to simulate a family styler dinner, workout facility or bar, to testing using immersive technology.


The importance of providing context in a central location test will depend on the business and test objectives, the stage of product development, and the particulars of the product and its intended use. Product testing protocols need to consider the best balance between the control afforded by traditional laboratory methods and the realism of the usage context.

Go Deeper

When does context matter? It depends …

Recently, P&K partnered with The Ohio State University in a study of the effect of context on the appreciation of red wine. Wines were evaluated in a sensory booth, an immersive wine bar (using video projection), and an actual wine bar. Average liking ratings of the wines were the same regardless of environment. However, stated consumption behavior and price estimation did differ among environments.

In other studies, we have observed that:

  • A meal context increased liking ratings for a food compared to when that food was tested by itself and changed the importance of some sensory attributes
  • Priming respondents with a description of an intended usage occasion reduced differences among snack alternatives compared when the products were tested primer.