Taste Testing Market Research | How Does it Work?

woman eating a salad

Is there anything more fun than taste testing market research? The answer is clearly no. But let's look beyond the enjoyment for both the organization conducting as well as the participant tasting.

In there lies a lot of value and insight in these tests for sponsoring organizations.

Fact is fact in retail. If your product does not taste good, it likely won't succeed. Unless you produce olives or wasabi. I personally haven't figured that out yet.

Globally, the food market raked in 8.27 trillion U.S. dollars last year. From this figure alone, it’s plain to see that this industry is highly competitive–which is why it’s so important to make use of market research if you’re launching a new food item. 

In this blog, our market research company explains the benefits of taste testing and how it works for brands looking to conduct this type of market research.


What is Taste Testing Market Research?

Taste testing is a type of market research hosted by food manufacturing brands to measure target consumers' likes, dislikes, competitor comparisons, and other key performance indicators of their food or drink product. 

The feedback received through a taste testing market research company offers the sponsor evidence and facts to guide go-to-market strategies, marketing efforts, and even ways to improve the taste and functionality of the product.

For context, out of roughly 15,000 new food items produced yearly, about 90% won’t make it. This is why taste testing is a popular form of research (both formally and informally). 

When it comes to taste, nothing can quite capture this feedback better than an in-the-moment survey or focus group.

The benefits of taste testing foods include:

  • Conducting this research live allows the interviewer or moderator to follow up immediately on product improvements.
  • Creating a formal market research project around this can lend incredible depth and detail to assist with product development.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Taste testing methods in market research allow brands to gather important feedback, from packaging to taste. From here, this feedback can be used to improve the product. 


What is the Process of Taste Testing Market Research?

Our taste testing market research company follows a structured process from start-to-finish.

There are many steps involved in a project, but all follow a similar project flow to the order seen below.

Working with a market research firm or expert in this space, like Drive Research ensures your taste test project is run effectively and efficiently.

The process for taste testing market research includes:

  1. Proposal: defines objectives, scope, timeline, and costs. Learn more in our blog, how to write a market research RFP.
  2. Kickoff: reviews expectations and planned usage for the results.
  3. Workplan: highlights key project milestones, deliverables, and deadlines.
  4. Location Choice: strategically picking markets and locations to hold taste tests.
  5. Tester Recruit: determining who to recruit, how to recruit, and criteria.
  6. Write Survey or Guide Design: constructing the questionnaire or guide for the evaluation.
  7. Fieldwork: conducting the taste tests in one market or several markets.
  8. Analysis: reviewing the data and feedback, running cross-tabulations by the audience.
  9. Reporting: summarizing feedback into digestible themes and action items (pun intended).
  10. Debrief: reviewing the feedback in a meeting to dive deeper and answer questions.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Working with a market research team to complete your taste testing project simplifies the process to allow for the best possible feedback. From creating relevant taste testing survey questions to the final debrief, a reliable team is able to prioritize actions.


Finding Participants for Taste Testing Market Research

Your organization can work with a taste testing company to recruit participants and obtain advice on which markets to choose and locations to host the market research.

This will often save you time so you can truly focus on the study's objectives and not have to worry about all the planning and logistics involved.

Finding participants can often prove challenging unless you work with a recruitment firm or company that has experience with taste testing, however, there are several options to accomplish this. 


Option #1: Live Recruiting

Ultimately you can choose to do this on-the-spot (at a mall, event, or restaurant) but there is no guarantee your sample will reflect your intended target audience.

There is also no guarantee on the number of respondents you will receive feedback from.


Option #2: Pre-Recruit Taste Testers

Another option is to pre-recruit testers to a location or focus group facility.

This process guarantees a higher turn-out rate and ensures you will have credible and reliable feedback.

By pre-screening respondents and sending them to a research facility, you can split respondents by key demographics based on responses from the qualitative recruitment questionnaire.


Option #3: In-Home Usage Testing (IHUTs)

A third option is in-home usage testing (IHUTs).

This is where a taste testing market research company sends kits to households to allow the participants to taste test the product in a natural environment (kitchen, dining room, etc.).

This is often a preferred option for any product that requires preparation.

Therefore, when going over your taste testing ideas, make sure you consider the importance of prep time -- whether that’s heating up a can of soup or throwing a smoothie together. Doing this in a home setting gives the participant a sense of authenticity when it comes to the food item. 

Since IHUTs for new food items allow the participant to feel comfortable when trying out the new product, the potential for distractions is also lessened. Aside from actually tasting the food item, participants will be able to get the full experience of preparing the item. 

This, of course, plays a role in feedback. 

Is there unnecessary or clunky packaging? Are there too many preparation steps? If instructions are part of the deal, are they easy to follow? Critiques like this can also be obtained through an IHUT, which may not have been discovered in another setting. 

How are they obtained? A moderator will accompany the participant either in person or remotely. Because of this, even seemingly small comments made by the participant will be taken into account by the moderator. 

These comments can then be used by the brand in question to tweak and perfect the food item before it hits the shelves. 

Recommended Reading: Ultimate Guide to In-Home Usage Testing


Which Taste Test Recruiting Option is Best?

Your organization can work with a taste testing company to recruit participants and obtain advice on which markets to choose and locations to host the market research.

This will often save you time so you can truly focus on the study's objectives and not have to worry about all the planning and logistics involved.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Choosing the right recruitment method really depends on the specific project at hand. In many cases, IHUTs are a great option for taste testing food research. Allowing participants to actually prepare (and taste) a new food item, IHUTs gather uniquely detailed and accurate feedback.


Where Are Taste Tests Hosted?

The location of the taste testing depends on a number of factors.

First and foremost: budget.

Do you have the budget to host the sessions in several locations across the country to obtain a comprehensive and representative sample size of your audience?

Answering this will help guide you to a small-scale or large-scale project.

If budgets are tight, you may search for 1 market that matches the national demographics as a whole or host locally and try to recruit participants that match the national demographics.

Just make sure you set up your project for success. Do not try to host taste testing market research in a market that does not have access to the type of participant or intended end-user you market to.

There are a variety of locations you can host the sessions such as:

  1. Focus group facilities
  2. Taste testing facilities
  3. Kitchens
  4. Hotel conference rooms
  5. Event centers

💡 The Key Takeaway: Budget is number one in determining where your taste testing research will be held. Depending on how much you’re able to spend, you may choose to host your taste testing in kitchens, hotel conference rooms, or other locations. 


Conduct Taste Testing Market Research with Drive Research

Drive Research is a national taste testing market research company located in Syracuse, NY.

We work with clients across the country to assist with their market research needs and regularly host sessions in all areas of the U.S. We have access to both participants and facilities to manage all of your taste test project needs from start to finish.

Interested in discussing more? Contact us below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.


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