Zac Daunt-Jones, the roving reporter for BBC Radio Kent Breakfast show, visited our Sensory Labs in Westerham in the (very) early hours of Tuesday morning to see what goes on behind the scenes.
Spurred on by recent media interest in Marketing Sciences’ Sensory Unit and our quest to help companies reduce sugar, salt & fat in their products without compromising taste, Zac came to see for himself how we assess the sensory properties of products. He also had the opportunity to have taste buds tested to see if he had the sensory acuity required to be a trained taster.
Having made a quick introduction on air, I explained to Zac about what we do at Westerham and why our work is important to companies. We then went through a basic taste test in which he had to identify solutions of the 5 basic tastes: sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami plus a neutral (water) solution. Scoring only two out of six for taste, we moved onto a sniff test to see if Zac could identify some common aromas and describe them.
Smelling the first of ten aromas – orange oil – and saying that it reminded him of his larder followed by the second – lavender – which he thought smelt of cheese & onion crisps, we decided to quickly abandon that test!
Next Zac tried a Difference test, where he correctly identified one sample of unsalted crisps from two identical samples of a salted crisp. After that success, we decided that perhaps the final test, of selecting correctly a sugar-free version of jelly amongst two identical samples of full sugar jelly, was worth a go. Having failed this test, we concluded that Zac, indeed, had no sense of taste apart from being able to identify that some food had salt in and that he was not going to make it as one of our tasters – better stick to the day job Zac!
Zac then spoke to our Panel Manager Sharyn Ketteringham about what it takes to become a good taster (‘to be able to pass the screening test’ was her concise and considered response), and we then finished our few live on-air slots with a recorded piece which was aired on the Drive Time show at about 6pm. An interesting and very different start to our morning after a long Bank Holiday!
Dr Debbie Parker is a Sensory scientist within the Product Testing TeamSubscribe