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Taste It, Test It

Taste. The quintessential reason most of us eat, besides hunger. We shiver when a cheesy snack melts slowly in our mouths. We urge for the crackle of a potato chip and the saltiness that comes with it. Even the softness of a warm muffin makes us feel safe and at home. If you are in the business of making snacks or juices, taste is everything. As a new entry in the market, taste may be the only contributing factor to sealing initial customer loyalty. If you are an already established business that engages in food preparation, you may even be convinced that the quality of your product, even after all these years, is still the same. In both of these scenarios Data Minders Business Research encourages you to engage in taste tests. You may say, “Well I got persons close to me to try out my homemade cupcakes before I started selling them.” Bias, however, whether acknowledged or unintended can distort your taster’s perception of your product. Just the fact that your Aunty loves you deeply will make her blind to the reality that your cookies do not “look like cookies.”  You may even say, “We have been making a consistent profit all these years, no one can compete with us” But in the background, on a shelf in some small bakery is a competitor that is gaining ground on your market share in taste, flavour, and customer dedication.

Given these scenarios, taste tests are essential to accomplishing better quality product, getting the opinions about new products, taking the lead in taste over competitors, understanding the strength and weaknesses in your own product and in the product of your rivals, and monitoring your own product quality as you move from a small self-made good to one made by hired cooks and then to factory level production.

There are a number of things to consider in undertaking taste tests, not all cut and dry.

Location. The standard approach is to take a hall test. Here, you rent a central location and invite relevant participants. It is crucial that this location is easily accessible to partakers. There is a catch, however. You won’t get viable results for some products because a hall test is not the ideal place for the use of the product. A person will only really register the quality of such a product when they use it in their own lives. Food items may have a different experience to being in the comfort of your home versus being in a hall. To make the choice, think of the purpose of your taste test. If it is to assess the elements of quality (we will talk of these soon) then a hall test, especially if there is a limited budget, is more accurate. But, if you want to know if, after a stressful day of work, your specialty cheese puffs are precisely what a legal clerk needs to unwind as she watches Netflix, then home test are crucial.

Questions. It is vital to know what to ask. And to know what to ask, and as in the situation of determining location, you must consider your core objective.  If you are comparing the taste of your gluten-free bread to those sold in Massy Stores, then you should look at:

– Whether your product is liked.

– Whether the texture is satisfactory.

-If the odour is pleasing to the participant.

-Which product tastes better.

-What aspect of the products resonate with the participant.

– Overall, what determined the participants’ satisfaction with the good.

– Is the appearance encouraging or discouraging?

If you are assessing the sale potential, then taste is not the only thing you should include in your process.

Steps. The steps may vary on your approach. Single product testing and comparative testing each will take a different method. Know however that having a palette cleanser is essential. Also, have the same questions for each participant. Be consistent in the presentation of the food items as well. Also, note that blind taste test (where participants do not know the brand names) will vary in its preparation as compared to tests where sample members know about the products.  Test participants separately so they do not influence each other’s opinions.

Even as you go about taking your product to the next level, you have to be careful of certain traps. Do not fall into the Coca-Cola trap. Coca-Cola, due to the steady decline in market share in the 1970s and the early 1980s concluded that taste was the only reason persons bought Coke. The company did extensive blind product taste testing and found that their new product was preferred to their “Old Coke” and Pepsi. The results, though right, turned out to be misleading. Why? Because of the assumption that Coca-Cola Ltd made with respect to the cause of their demand. Dedication and loyalty to the “Old Coke” cost them significant losses. Do not make this mistake, your packaging, your sales price and even where you sell your product can make a difference to the purchasing potential.

The other lesson is that blind testing does not always work. No one eats a cookie with their eyes closed. Again, reflect on the primary objective of the study to choose blind taste testing or not.

One good thing that Coca-Cola did do was test close to 200,000 participants. Now you may not have the funding to cover such a sample, but you can start with 30 people, gauge their initial reaction to the product and then go onto at least 100 taste testers.

Also, whether you purse hall studies or at home studies, ensure that the conditions are the same for all members of the sample. Different conditions such as plate size, product size, etc. can make the results invalid.

And finally, note the importance of creating good brand loyalty. As I said before, taste is excellent but without awesome marketing strategies that make people connect with your product on an emotional level, it can only get you so far. Pepsi had this experience in the 1970s after doing blind taste tests that revealed individuals liked their products more than Coca-Cola. Through Pepsi’s promotion of their acclaimed superiority, this gave them the lead for a while. But for those Coca-Cola lovers, think of Coke and the safe feeling you get. Pepsi does not instill that feeling (not from my perspective anyways…I know some very committed Coca-Colans)

As I close, note that continually checking on the quality of your product is empowering to your business. Never stop questioning if the taste is consistent. Do the research!

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