Master your palate: 10 tips to elevate your tastings and create successful products

Master your palate: 10 tips to elevate your tastings and create successful products

Posted: Tue 21st May 2024

Whether you're a food scientist, a product developer or a food and beverage business owner/CEO, having the ability to truly taste is a valuable skill.

Tastings during market research and product development play a crucial role in creating exceptional products.

These tastings not only allow you to assess the sensory qualities of your products but also gather valuable insights and feedback from various stakeholders. This enables you to make improvements and ensure that the final product meets the desired standards.

However, not all tastings are created equal. To truly elevate your tastings, certain tips and strategies can make a significant difference.

We explore 10 essential tips to optimise your tastings, master your palate, improve your validation process and ultimately achieve greater success in your product development journey.

By implementing these tips, you can enhance the quality of your products and deliver a superior customer experience.

Tip 1: Bring people on the journey with you

The main objective is to provide context for your tasting. For example, what are you tasting and what information do you hope to gain from it? Which stage of development are you in?

However, do not go into too much detail. The goal is to inform, not to influence.

During each tasting, internal or external, offer two to three variations of each flavour profile. For example, you are creating a strawberry-flavoured water. In this case include one strawberry option with creamy notes, one strawberry option with fresh and green notes and one strawberry option with maybe jammy and floral notes.

The purpose is to gather as much information as possible regarding which flavour profile fits your product the most. And for that, you need to compare them.

If you bring only one strawberry flavour on the table, or multiple jammy strawberry flavours, what information are you going to gain from it? Not much!

You may find the best strawberry jam flavour but you are focusing on only one aspect of the flavour profile and therefore, you are not building the full flavour potential for your product.

Tip 2: Get benchmark products

Memory can easily be altered and influenced over time by subjectivity, biases and opinions from others. That's why it's important to always include the benchmark products you have identified as a reference during your tasting.

For instance, you're trying to recreate the flavour of a lemon tart in an ice cream. During your tasting, make sure to bring the actual lemon tarts or lemon tart-flavoured products from different retailers that have the specific attributes you want to recreate in your ice cream.

This could include the sharpness, the zestiness, the floral notes and the buttery notes. The same principle applies to other attributes like texture, mouthfeel and colour.

By relying only on actual tangible products and not on individual memories, you can ensure an objective and reliable evaluation.

Tip 3: Increase intensity gradually

As a general rule, wait at least 24 hours before tasting your products. This allows the flavours and other ingredients to settle.

During your tasting, start with the milder and more mellow flavours and finish with the more intense and long-lasting ones.

For example, begin with fruity flavours and end with mint, spices, coffee, garlic etc. The purpose is to avoid saturating your palate.

After tasting all the samples, go back to some of your favourite ones. Do not rely only on the first impression as the order of the tasting can influence and predispose your palate for the next sample.

For example, the first sample tends to be the strongest compared to the following ones, particularly if you compare similar flavour profiles as the palate is completely clean at that point. Revisit some of the first samples to double-check their strength and flavour profile.

According to the product shelf-life, try periodically your favourite samples over the course of a couple of days or weeks to observe how the flavours and texture transform over time.

Tip 4: Master your palate

Recognising and articulating our sensory perceptions can be challenging but understanding others is even more complex. For example, if I mention the word 'bat', you may think of a small flying mammal or a type of sports equipment.

That's why flavour lexicon training, utilised in flavour houses, is necessary to accurately describe the flavour nuances in products and ensure that we are all speaking the same language. This allows for more objective tasting, reducing the impact of individual cultural barriers, familiarity and experience.

Flavour wheels are not limited to wine, coffee, tea, chocolate and cheese but should be used for any product or flavour.

During tasting, each person associates their own emotion or memory with a neutral descriptor and communicates it to the group. For example, the descriptor 'green' may bring to mind memories of freshly cut grass for some people and unripe tomatoes for others. However, when someone says: "It tastes a bit green," everyone understands.

And finally, practice, practice, practice! Like any skill, mastering your palate necessitates regular practice. Remember that everyone has a unique palate, so focus on understanding your own sensitivities.

Implement blind tasting sessions to refresh your flavour lexicon training or regularly try new flavours and combinations to broaden your palate knowledge.

The broader your experiences, the more skilled you'll get.

Tip 5: Build blocks

During a tasting, it can be challenging to fully engage all of our senses simultaneously. To begin, form an overall impression. For example, consider whether the overall flavours are well-balanced or not, assess the overall flavour intensity from low to high and evaluate the duration of the aftertaste, from short to long.

Next, shift your focus to the primary descriptors for visual, aroma, basic tastes, flavours, texture and aftertaste. For instance, you may notice some apple and rosemary notes, with a low bitterness and a smooth texture.

Once you have established the foundation, deep dive into each specific attribute. Explore details, such as the presence of green, floral, citrusy, woody, or piny notes and maybe a sulphurous aftertaste.

Taste the product multiple times if necessary, to ensure an accurate assessment. The goal is to create a comprehensive and precise profile of the product.

Tip 6: Stay objective

Stay objective and consider that the product is not designed for you but for your target consumers. Avoid using subjective statements such as "I don't like it" but instead, concentrate on describing the product experience, such as whether it is balanced, juicy, creamy or floral.

Keep in mind that genetics, culture and environment can make us sensitive to certain basic tastes and aroma compounds.

Tip 7: Always go back to your objective(s)

Always refer back to your objectives and ask appropriate questions to confirm if the product truly meets your criteria, such as texture, flavour profile, intensity, balance and distinctiveness.

Ensure your evaluation is consistent, objective, and accurate. Stay focused on what you are trying to achieve.

It is also important that the product validation is NOT based on one person's decision. Instead, it should be conscientious and guided by defined criteria that align with your objectives and target consumer.

The product should meet a set of requirements defined through your research and development process, addressing questions such as:

  • Does the product align with the given brief? If we go back to our lemon tart ice cream example, does it taste like a lemon tart?

  • Does the flavour match the selected profile? Which in this example is juicy, slightly floral, zesty, green, buttery and wheaty

  • Does the ice cream match the selected product experience? Which is that it melts slowly in the mouth, smooth velvety texture, pleasant and fatty mouthfeel

Tip 8: Make sure everyone remains quiet

By maintaining silence during tasting, you can eliminate external factors that may influence your sensory perception. This allows you to fully focus on the product, leading to a more accurate description and a better understanding of its true characteristics.

Instead of comparing yourself to others, embrace your unique palate. Remember, your individual experience and genetics make you more sensitive to certain basic tastes and aroma compounds.

Tip 9: Get everyone a chance to express their opinions

Everyone's opinion is important, regardless of how vocal they may be. It's important to acknowledge that some people may be more reserved or introverted and may not feel comfortable speaking up in a group setting.

However, this doesn't make their opinions any less valuable or valid compared to those who are more vocal.

By providing everyone with an equal opportunity to express their thoughts, we can ensure that all perspectives are heard and considered.

It is important to look for a diverse range of opinions and evaluations to create a balanced and accurate assessment of the product.

This approach promotes fairness, inclusivity and respect and creates a positive and collaborative environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Tip 10: Cleanse your palate

Avoid eating garlic/onions/spicy food, drinking coffee or tea and smoking cigarettes two hours before a tasting. They dull or damage your taste buds and create lingering flavours which interfere with your ability to accurately taste and evaluate the flavours during a tasting.

Drink plenty of water and eat plain water crackers before and during tasting to neutralise and cleanse your palate and remove any lingering flavours from the previous sample.

This is essential to get the most out of any tasting experience.


In conclusion, elevating your tastings and driving successful product development involves a combination of thoughtful strategies and disciplined practices.

By incorporating these 10 tips into your tasting and product development practices, you can create a structured and effective approach that not only enhances the accuracy of evaluations but also promotes a positive and collaborative atmosphere within your team.

Remember, the success of your product development journey lies not only in the flavours you create but also in the meticulous and inclusive process that brings those flavours to life.

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