OSU helps entrepreneurs launch new food products

taste test
An assistant slides a food sample to a taste tester at OSU's Food Innovation Center. (Photo: Lynn Ketchum)

OSU has its finger on the pulse of consumers’ food preferences

When companies or entrepreneurs develop a new food product, or tweak an existing one, and want to know what the public thinks, they don't always have the resources to do that themselves.

But OSU's Food Innovation Center in Portland does. Clients can tap into the center's database of more than 18,000 people and carefully select individuals to taste the product and share their opinions. The center also organizes focus groups in which paid volunteers assemble in a camera-equipped conference room to answer questions about the food they’re testing while company representatives listen behind a one-way mirror. Additionally, the center hosts sensory tests where each participant sits in one of 10 booths as an assistant slides a food sample through a small window. The tasters chew, swirl, swallow and ponder. Is it sweet enough? Too spicy? What about the texture? Too crunchy?

The center has tested Italian sodas, yogurt, energy bars, sardines, baby food and wine. It has also evaluated peaches, chocolate truffles and raw-milk cheese. All told, tasters have scrutinized more than 250 products since 2002.

Source: Ann Colonna, sensory program manager at OSU's Food Innovation Center

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