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How Do You Become A Food Taster?

How Do You Become A Food Taster?

“Professional Food Taster” sounds like a good job – but is it?

You might picture someone who gorges on chocolates all day, taking breaks between bites only long enough to quickly scribble notes before indulging again. But as pro tasters will tell you, it’s not all about just eating.

Lisa Schroeder is an associate sensory scientist, in other words, a professional taster, for Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. Between bites of Snickers, M&M’s, and Skittles, Schroeder takes time to create computer programs to evaluate products, plans ahead for product launches, runs taste-testing panel sessions, and continues her own tasting education.

When she’s not taste testing soup, Jane Freiman, director of the Campbell’s Soup Co. consumer test kitchen, is evaluating new recipes and running taste panels.

Elizabeth McCall, master taster for distiller Woodford Reserve, doesn’t sip bourbon all day long – for obvious reasons. McCall spends time speaking at events, hosting tastings for clients, and improving the brand’s procedures and production facility.

If you’re still on board to become a taster, these three women can tell you how to do it.

Have a superior sense of taste.

Simply put, you can’t become a taster without a strong sense of taste—with the ability to focus on complex layers of flavors and differentiate them.

In fact, when you apply for a job as a professional taster, your tongue is the real interviewee, says Schroeder. “You [will] go through multiple screenings that focus on your experience with food and how you taste things,”

Learn to speak taste.

An excellent sense of taste alone won’t get you very far as a professional if you can’t communicate what you’re experiencing. “Learning how to describe foods and their attributes is a key part of the role,” Freiman says.

“For example, I cannot just say a product tastes ‘good.’ But I can describe a lemon with ‘it’s sweet but tart with a harsh bite.’”

Train the palate.

Here’s what McCall’s palate training was like: “We had aroma jars with different attributes and worked on creating the sensory memory of the different flavors,” she recalls.

Schroeder says she underwent six months of training. “I was trained to identify and refer back to specific tastes, textures, and other aspects of the ingredients we use,” she describes.

No culinary school necessary.

“Contrary to what many people might think, you do not need to go to culinary school to become a professional taste tester,” says Freiman. “I didn’t.”

Of course, Freiman admits she works with people who did graduate from culinary school.

“But,” she says, “I find it more important that a candidate is hard working, curious, and has a passion for food. This career takes years of dedication and training—and having such a love for this [career and for food] really makes the difference.”

Understand the evolving consumer.

It’s also important to stay in touch with what consumers are demanding.

“In this role, you must regularly talk to consumers about their taste preferences, learn how they cook, and what new foods they are interested in,” says Freiman.

With this information, you’ll be better armed to recommend recipe changes based on taste and consumer demand.

Never stop learning and refining your palate.

“There is always an opportunity to improve” says McCall as a professional taster.

She advises, “really pay attention while you are eating and drinking, think about the flavors and always work on describing what you are eating—in and out of work—even if you are just describing it to yourself,” she says.

In agreement, Schroeder points out:“Attend trainings when you can, even on products outside of your area of expertise.”

“Overall, my No. 1 piece of advice for an aspiring taste tester is to expand your food horizons and to try all kinds of foods,” Schroeder says.

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

What Is Food Formulation?

What Is Food Formulation?

You May Have The Best Recipe in the World, But Have You Really Perfected Your Food Product?

Ever wondered what went into producing that can of mushroom soup or that pack of delicious macaroni and cheese? These are all the results of food formulation.

This is a multi-step process that takes a food idea from conception to the grocery aisle. While simple in theory, it involves a lot of innovation, technique, and trial and error.

The process is the same whether you call it food formulation, product formulation, or food product design.

Let’s take a quick look at what goes into this fascinating process

What is the Food Formulation Process?

It’s important to follow all the necessary steps when creating new food product designs, to ensure it’s good and it can be produced on a large scale.

  1. It Starts with an Idea

It’s a grim fact that new food products launched into the market have an 80 percent failure rate. This statistic is why most food brands make it a point to iron out their idea before going further. The marketing team helms this process and bases it on data from market research and competitor analysis.

  1. Test Recipe

The next step is to do an initial test recipe and see if it creates a good product. This is so that they can see what the final product will look and taste like. Often, this is done in small batches, so it’s cheap and quick to make any revisions.

  1. Sensory Tests

The prototype is then sent for sensory evaluation. A team of talented tasters does this. The professionals will judge every aspect of the food product from taste and texture to the overall presentation. They will then notify the test kitchen team of any changes. If the product is up to par, then it will undergo a pilot batch

  1. Pilot Batch

The pilot batch is usually a step up in size from the test batch and is used to see how well the recipe will perform on a slightly larger scale. Mistakes are spotted and corrected at this point.

Product specifications are also monitored to ensure consistency. This is needed to minimize any errors before committing to a commercial batch. Further sensory tests may be done until everyone is happy with the final product.

  1. Consumer Test

One final step before a full product launch is to do consumer testing. Here, random people from the product’s target market judge the product. They might be asked to describe it freely, or against a set number of criteria. Once the feedback is in, the company will decide to either push through with the product or make necessary changes.

Consumer testing is a necessary step in the food formulation process because it’s an actual test of what the market thinks of the product. It eliminates any bias that might arise from internal testing and gives a good gauge of success.

  1. Launch!

With a successful prototype, the company will now go into production scale. Marketing for the product will also increase, and distribution channels will be tapped. All of this is in preparation for the last stage of product formulation – launching it.

The company may also opt to protect their food recipe at this point (Interested in protecting your food recipe? Read an interesting article here.)

But the process doesn’t stop there. Once launched, the performance of the product will be continually monitored. Things will be revised as needed. The truth is, food formulation is less of a linear process and more of a life cycle.