Taste Testing Taste Testing is an excellent method of getting input from students regarding their food preferences. Student preferences are invaluable when deciding on new menu items or making decisions regarding the acceptability of popular products. This can be accomplished in a casual setting with a small group of students or on the serving line providing a “taste” of a new food item to each student that comes through the serving line. It is not unusual for a Child Nutrition Department to sample 20 different hamburger patties prior to selecting one for the menu!
The small group setting is most effective when sampling several different products.
Getting Started: To establish the “panel” of taste testers, first contact the campus principal and request a group of 5-7 students that are typical of the demographic of the campus. Also determine what date and time of day the panel is able to meet. Generally 30 minutes or less is enough time to sample several food items.
Prior to the date and time of the taste testing, request samples of the product from each of the different approved vendors. If hamburger patties are being sampled (for example), be sure that all qualified brands are delivered prior to the taste testing, so that they are all sampled at the same time. It is difficult to “rank” acceptability if all products are not sampled at the same time.
Determine the location of the taste testing and confirm that the samples can be cooked according to manufacturer’s instructions and served within the acceptable time frame, at that location. (Although some taste testing panels may meet in the school cafeteria, others may meet in a nearby Home Ec. Lab or teacher’s lounge, etc)
Panel members will need a table and chair and the following supplies: eating plates, napkins, utensils, a comment sheet, pencil and a glass of water.
Develop a “comment sheet” on which each panelist can write comments. Simply number each item tested (do not list brands) and keep a record of the corresponding number and brand on a confidential list. This insures that responses are “blind” and not based on name brand bias. See attached sample “comment sheet” for tasting several samples of the same product. The attached “New Menu Item Questionnaire” can also be used for comments on several different food items/recipes.
Welcome the panel and explain the purpose of the taste testing (ie; to select the most acceptable products from the samples provided or acceptability of a new recipe).
Explain the completion of the comment sheet or new food item questionnaire and the need for responses to be kept confidential. We don’t want panelists to be aware of comments and responses of others, which might influence opinions.
Explain the process of tasting a sample and commenting on taste, texture, appearance and acceptability. Take a sip of water and discard any remaining sample before tasting the next sample.
Have one full serving, uncut, to be viewed. Another serving should be cut into bite-sized pieces for the samples.
Have panelists complete the tasting and comment on each sample and return comment sheet before leaving.
File results of taste testing panels in the bid purchasing file. Indicate which products are acceptable and which are not. Although there may be the majority of products which are acceptable, there may also be some products which are clearly more popular. It is useful to keep this record when making purchasing decisions. If there is a close price difference between two products and one was much higher rated, it might be worth paying a little more money for the more popular product.
Follow-up with panelists (and teacher/principal) with a “thank you”. Send a short note or card indicating your appreciation. Recognize their participation on your website with a picture of the process or a note of thanks. If a small token of appreciation is possible, provide it at the completion of the taste-testing (a “coupon” for a complimentary meal, a fresh apple, etc).
School:_______________________________Date:________________________ Complete each of the following columns, ranking each item 1-5 with 1 being the lowest rank and 5 being the highest rank for each of the 3 criteria (appearance, taste and texture). Total the score on the right and list any comments. ____________________________________________________________________4______________________________________________________________________5'>_______________________________________________________________________1'>Item Appearance Taste Texture Score Comments