Nov 07

How To Rig A Taste Test

FT + Proven By Science + Pumpkin Publog5 comments • 907 views

Imagine you are an unscrupulous Market Research* company who enjoys both Pepsi and Coke as clients. They both ask you independently to conduct a taste test** on consumers, each in the knowledge and expectation that their superior product will win. How can you run tests that will keep both of them happy?

It’s easy. Both tests are of course scrupulously fair, conducted blind, with a random sample of consumers. But for the Pepsi one you ask consumers to just take a sip of the product, and for the Coke one you ask consumers to drink a small glass of it. Pepsi is sweeter, and so the initial sip leaves consumers wanting more, and they mark the product higher. Whereas over an actual glass Coke tends to win. Both tests are valid – both clients are happy.

*No MR company would actually do this, as blind product tests are pretty useless really*** – this is just an example of an effect that you find testing colas, that we use at work as an example of why you need rigorous testing protocols.

**(This is a test for preference not for recognition. Tests for recognition don’t work, obviously, because people assume that the product they like best is the one they usually drink and then distort the scores further by marking it higher.)

*** I believe the comedian Mark Thomas has some material on cola testing but I haven’t seen it.


  1. 1

    is this an fact as totally once and for all proved by FOOD SCIENCE DAY (viz: “isn’t rose just red and white wine mixed”?) or does it have independent “validity”

  2. 2
    Tom on 22 Nov 2007 #

    There’s a food science element to it – i.e. I just made it up BUT I wd hypothesise from everything I know about product testing that it is true. I can’t think why anyone would do a recognition test anyway, maybe Mark Thomas so he can say “they are all the same aaah”.

  3. 3
    Pete on 22 Nov 2007 #

    The Mark Thomas bit in the otherwise rather unsatisfactory show did a taste test with 30 small sips of cola. I think that after about three cups your mouth is desensitised and so the brains idea of preference takes over – and as Tom says its often about people over marking the samples they think is their favourite higher. More interesting they can be used to illustrate how people do multiple choice tests (never more than four they think are the same).

    Brain be stupid.

  4. 4

    korrect place for taste test = HELL’S KITCHEN and KITCHEN NIGHTMARES where evil ramsay quizzes wannabe chefs on tellin chicken from ham

    the runner-up of the last HK USA — previously a nanny and seemingly blonde and ditzy — conquered ALL in the taste-test, which wz awesome and saved her bacon bootwise for several shows

    when it’s best is when mr “would-be cordon bleu” [haha gordon bleu <--- joke to save for later] sez "oh oh i know this is it FRUITGUMS" when it is in fact OYSTERS ect ect

  5. 5
    mitya on 22 Nov 2007 #

    this is totally true. it was discussed in blink by malcolm gladwell.

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