A taste test is a tool used to gather information about the flavor of a food or product. It may be used by a company to ensure consistency, a manufacturer developing a new product, or a group which is trying to prove a point about the differences, or lack thereof, between two products. There are an assortment of other uses for a taste test, which is often carried out on the corporate level by professional “tasters” who have trained to be impartial and valuable tools in the taste profiling process.
When a taste test is used to compare or contrast foods, it is typically performed blind. In a blind test, the tasters do not know what they are tasting. They are offered samples of the product in identical presentations and asked to taste and profile the samples. In a double-blind test, the people offering the samples also do not know what they are. This is designed to ensure impartiality, making the end results potentially more valid.
Any sort of edible can be analyzed using a taste test. Some famous examples include the regular quality control tests performed by a number of companies which want to keep their products consistent. These types of tests have also been performed on everything from water to salt. Often, a taste test illuminates very subtle and complex differences between product formulations, especially when professional tasters are involved.
To run a professional taste test, each taster is typically isolated in a booth. The tasters usually wear no perfumes or scents, and their clothing is laundered in neutral soaps. This is intended to minimize interference with the test. Usually a palate cleanser is provided as well, so that each taster can start fresh with each taste. An array of numbered samples are provided, and the taster checks each one, taking notes or making comments about the product.
When a company is gearing up for a major product release, taste tests are very important. A panel of tasters will ultimately determine the formulation of the product, by commenting on flavors and textures they like and do not like. For companies which want to keep their products consistent, a panel of trained tasters familiar with their products is crucial.
People can replicate a taste test at home for fun if they would like to do things like contrast bottled and tap water or experiment with a panel of wines. When conducting such a test at home, try to avoid biasing the participants. A blind test is a great way to do that, and can be accomplished by having an “administrator” fill sample cups out of sight of the participants.