The pharmaceutical industry discovers the benefits of sensory product optimization
Medicine does not have to taste good to work! Doctors and pharmacists have long held on to this belief. Unfortunately, the idea that "as long as the patient trusts the doctor, he or she can swallow even the bitterest pill" is often a misconception.
A large percentage of the medicine that doctors prescribe is never taken - and this is not just because of the medicine's unwanted side effects. Patients have been refusing to take essential medicines because they tasted bad, were hard to swallow, or packaging was hard to open.
As long as the doctors continued to prescribe the drugs, this was a problem that did not effect the producers of prescription medicines. It could often be some time before the doctor might notice the drug's lack of effect on the patient and begin to doubt the usefulness of the medicament. After all, the patient seldom admits to not having taken the medicine as prescribed. With over-the-counter medicine, it is a different situation altogether.
Just as with supermarket food-stuffs, a consumer will not repeatedly buy cough lozenges or water-soluble calcium-carbonate tablets that taste bad. In this case the pharmacist's most sincere recommendations will often be ignored. In the case of over the counter vitamin preparations and food supplements sold in the supermarket, where consumer choice is no longer influenced by the advise of an authority in the field, the product with the most acceptable sensory properties will usually win out.
At a time when a more mature, more health-conscious population's interest in health-promoting products is rising as quickly as the corresponding newly available products, the manufacturer or supplier can no longer rely solely on the promised effectiveness and usefulness of a product. „A health or therapeutic benefit will not necessarily compensate for an unacceptable sensory experience“ states Anne Goldman of the private Canadian consumer research company ACCE in Mississauga, Ontario, a member of the European Sensory Network ESN. “When you have a headache, you are not going to choke on a big thick capsule if there is a sweet little pea of a pill that melts on your tongue, or a good-tasting fruity carbonated water-soluble tablet on the market that works just as well.”
It is not surprising that the pharmaceutical industry has finally woken up to the situation. Such aspects as the sensory qualities of a product are being given more attention. Anne Goldman states, "More and more often, pharmaceutical companies ask for our support in the development of new products or the re-launching of existing products.” Doctors are no longer the only ones to worry whether the patients are taking their medicine as recommended. This question is also becoming a high priority for manufacturers of over the counter pharmaceuticals and health promoting food supplements if they want their customers to remain faithful to these products.
Example 1: A tasty pain-killer for children
Example 2: Brand, Price, of Taste?
Example 3: Accessible Packaging