Does the idea of being paid to try products and offer your opinion sound exciting? Look no further than Food Perspectives Inc. The Plymouth-based food testing company, commonly known as FPI, runs tests for clients looking for public feedback. Testers try new products and familiar everyday products in single day tests and focus groups, multiple day tests and focus groups and home use tests.
“The consumer feedback is absolutely critical for our clients,” says recruiting department manager Lexa Hoffner. “The clients are making decisions on everything, including whether or not it’s moving ahead with products.”
Clients of Food Perspectives seek out the food testing company to facilitate consumer feedback, an unpredictable and essential aspect of developing new products. Planning each test is no simple feat.
“When we have a prototype, we test mouthfeel, different levels of salt, sweetness … They all have different scales of different quality,” Hoffner says. “Sometimes it’s all pizza or pudding.”
Senior manager of operations Jennye Ashcroft runs the show including overseeing the team that plans and executes the taste tests. With a warehouse full of cooking equipment at their disposal, planning a testing event can involve preparing more than 50 samples at the same time. Plus, she’s always looking for ways to improve testing procedures to ensure quality data for clients.
“Consumer feedback is very effective,” Ashcroft says. “We can provide [the companies] with deeper insights gained from talking about why and how, and desires behind those reactions.”
While information from tasting groups is confidential, it’s no secret how to apply to become a taster.
Through their 20-year-old database, recruiters invite those who’ve applied to join a taste test. Interested parties can sign up through their website. Tests are also occasionally announced on their Facebook or Twitter pages. It’s not difficult to find individuals interested in participating, whether through word of mouth or incentives on top of the payment given to participants, Hoffner says.
“One year Seth Meyers was at the State Theatre, so we did a drawing [for tickets], ” says Hoffner. “Otherwise we’ve done tickets to Valleyfair and a stay at the hotel in the Foshay.”
But one of the biggest draws for participants may be the option to fundraise. Groups raising money can participate in a tasting and Food Perspectives will donate to the organization of their choosing.
It’s a simple way for groups to work toward their fundraising goal as a group, or even an individual donating to a charity of their choice, Hoffner says. To date, FPI testers have donated more than $3.2 million to charities, schools, shelters and food banks.
And it’s not just for adults. Food Perspectives invites kids to apply to be a food tester, with parent permission,
“Kids are more discernable and just as valuable as the adult perspective,” Hoffner says.
“We’ve been testing children for so long that there’s really no difference [from adults] for us,” Ashcroft adds. “We always plan a couple of extra servers to be present in the room to be available to answer any questions or help keep them focused.”
Food testers at Food Perspectives are always learning something new, regardless of age.
“Every day is a new challenge,” Ashcroft shares. “We never run the same test twice, there’s always something new to learn, and always a new way to learn it. I think that’s what the best thing about the industry is.”