Adventures in Taste Testing for New Product Success

You know how people say the devil is in the details? Well, that couldn't be truer than with taste testing.

During college I participated in my fair share of paid food research studies (which was a great way to make a quick buck as a college student btw). While I took part in these taste testings, I never really gave much thought to the complexity of the research until years down the line when I decided to conduct taste tests for a food product I was considering bringing to the market.

As with most consumer usability testing, consumer taste research design is pretty complex. Some of the considerations include testing location, in addition to whether you want to reveal the product brand, conduct the research with a group of people verses one person at a time, and who exactly you're going to be recruiting for the study. Mike Burkenbine and Kathryn Korostoff do a great job at breaking down some of the research details below.

Some of the key take-aways from the video include:

  • In-facility testing is vital. In-store/in-restaurant should be conducted as a second part to the research.
  • "People eat with their eyes" - be weary of variables, whether it be the color of the packaging or serving utensil, that might affect gustation via vision, audition, olfaction, and somatosensation.
  • Ethnographic research might be best for packaged products that are made to be used at home (e.g. frozen meals).
  • Conduct blind testing first to check if the target market likes the product, then conduct further branded testing to check brand association.
  • Beware of regional differences in taste preferences.

If you've ever wondered how CPG companies and restaurant chains what food and beverage products to sell (and mitigate some of the business risk of launching a potential flop), consumer taste testing is the way to go.