Taste Matters

It’s a matter of taste!

Our state of the art analytical lab uses sophisticated techniques to dissect the complex aromas and flavours at the molecular level. These guys are like our own Taste Foresensic Scientists!

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Our Most Important Taste Tool

We currently have over 220 dogs and 250 cats that have been trained and calibrated to conduct preference tests. These are our colleagues and they take their jobs very seriously! Their opinions are the only ones that matter when it comes to taste.

In these tests, the dogs and cats are presented with two foods and they chose which one they want to eat. The test takes place over two days and the amount of each food eaten by each dog or cat is measured and statistically analyzed at a 95% confidence level to determine which food was preferred.

A black and white cat samples two different types of food. A brown and white dog samples two different types of food.
The Human Sensory Panel

But we have to have some kind of human language so we can talk about pet food and that is where our second tool —the Human Sensory Panel—come in.

This panel describes the different attributes of the foods, mainly the aroma and appearance, so that we have a language for talking about pet preferences.  For example ‘earthy’ or ‘savory’.

We map profiles of the foods which we compare against our database of pet preferences so that we can understand which food map profiles are liked or disliked by the dogs and cats.

Chart showing the human sensory panel.
A gray haired kitten looks on intently.
Molecular Investigation

A single pet food can have up to 200 distinct flavor and aroma molecules in it. Human noses may only identify 15 or 20 aromas but dogs and cats have noses that are much more powerful, so we need something more sensitive than the human nose to begin to understand what it is that they are smelling and tasting.

Our state-of-the-art analytical lab uses sophisticated techniques to dissect the complex aromas and flavors at the molecular level. These guys are like our own Taste Forensic Scientists. They are part of the Hill’s 14 full time employees dedicated to taste.

Ingredient Tournament

We can often get the same nutrition from a number of different ingredients. So how do we choose?

That’s where our Ingredient Tournament comes in:

  • This is a large scale test conducted to identify ingredients that dogs and cats love.
  • It’s a round robin tournament design with ingredient ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.
  • It also looks at ingredient interaction and acceptability thresholds.
  • From this, we create a large database to choose ingredients that combine together to deliver superior nutrition that pets love.

But sadly we can’t stop there. Ingredients preferred by pets still need to be aligned with ingredients that pet parents want to see in their pet’s bowls. What a balance!

Hill's pet food contains a variety of flavors, many of which are depicted here.
Size, Shape & Texture

These are 3 important factors in how much dogs and cats like their foods.

What do you think dogs prefer?
What do you think cats prefer?