What is a Taste Test?

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Have you ever wondered how companies decide on new flavours to launch? Or how their products always taste the same?

Many businesses conduct taste tests, inviting people to come in and try their food or beverage product before launching it to the masses. Taste tests are an excellent way to give companies confidence that people will like their product, even before it hits the shelves.

Why do businesses conduct taste tests?

The main reason a business conducts a taste test is to make sure that their product tastes good to consumers before they launch it. Other reasons might include:

  • Competitive analysis to see how their products compare to similar brands or products.
  • Checking for manufacturing consistency to ensure that each batch of the product tastes the same.
  • Determining customer preferences to figure out what kinds of flavours are popular or trending and what customers don't like.

Whatever the reason, the business needs to determine what the goal of the taste test is before conducting it. This will allow them (and us, as a market research firm) to be aligned on the test's goals, scope, and budget. Some things that we consider before conducting a taste test:

  • How many participants do you want to include?
  • Where will the taste test occur?
  • What is the study budget (cost for the market research firm, preparing the samples, etc.)?
  • What is the timeline for the project?
  • What are the factors that the taste testers should evaluate during the study?
  • How will the environment of your test affect the overall mood of your testers?

Basically, the test is like any other research study that needs to be clearly defined before it happens for the best results.

How do taste tests work?

A company will either conduct the test themselves or outsource the study to a market research company like us. It can be difficult or time-consuming for a business to find enough participants or plan and organize the study. Market research firms can have in-house recruiters, moderators, methodologies, facilities or access to facilities, and equipment to record reactions. That's why many businesses go the outsourcing route since we have experience and a pool of candidates to perform the tests.

We usually conduct these taste tests live and on-site, but in some cases, we may send the products to the subjects' homes. These are three of the most common scenarios for taste testing:

  • Live recruiting: we set up a booth at a mall or grocery store and engage with people walking by to do the taste test.
  • Pre-screened recruiting: we recruit subjects beforehand based on a variety of screening measures. This method is typically more reliable than live recruiting since we can do it in a controlled environment, and we know exactly who is going to show up.
  • In-Home Usage Testing (IHUTs): home tests are a popular choice for companies who sell products that require preparation, like a boxed cake mix. This gives us a chance to see if the product will still taste good when the user prepares it.

Taste tests are typically conducted blindly. This means that the subject will get multiple products to try without being told what the differences are. Because we don't tell them the differences, they aren't subject to any information biases. For example, if a taste tester had a bad experience with a brand, they might perceive the sample as less tasty if they know that the brand made it.

To record their feedback, we provide a form that the test subject fills out during (usually between each sample) or right after the test. The form consists of different questions asking the tester to rank the samples in a variety of areas.

Some things that they'll comment on are:

  • Flavour profiles (sour, spicy, sweet, bitter)
  • Texture of the product (crunchy, chewy, sticky, rich, flakey)
  • Smell (same as the product tastes or different?)
  • Appearance (does the product look appetizing?)
  • Aftertaste (does the product leave a taste in your mouth, even after you've consumed it?)

In order to properly differentiate between samples, the tester is usually given a neutral-tasting object like a cracker to clear the palate between products.

Typically, test subjects are paid for their time, but sometimes taste tests can be conducted on a volunteer basis. 

What are the outcomes of a taste test study?

After conducting a taste test, or multiple rounds of taste tests, our researchers will gather the data and analyze it. From there, businesses then have a better understanding of whether the food is consistent or needs tweaking before they launch. Because of the responses, they'll know which areas need improving.

To go a step further, we can also cross-reference the data with the tester's pre-screening data to see if factors like their lifestyle impact their results. This is a good way to know which markets a product might be more popular in.

How can I join a taste test? 

By now, you might be wondering, where can I go to get in on this fun market research opportunity? Getting paid to try food sounds like a dream, right?

You might be able to get lucky and come across a taste testing booth at a market or grocery store. Sometimes companies will have open calls for taste testers. But, your best bet is to sign up with a market research agency that often recruits taste testers. This way, you won't have to seek out opportunities actively, and you'll be contacted when there's a spot available in a taste test study.  

You can sign up with our service to get notified of taste testing opportunities.

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