This post is part of our series on Weird Jobs. Check out the other articles to learn about more weird jobs you could try!
Of the various ways to make money eating, being a restaurant critic is perhaps the most familiar, but you’ll spend more time writing than dining.
You might also try participating in medical research studies; in a study on obesity at Washington University in St. Louis, participants were paid $3,500 to eat fast food for three months. Or you could get paid to eat pet food… but most people would rather not.
What if you want to get paid for eating a variety of foods? Consider becoming a professional food taster.You can make between $30,000 and $60,000 annually tasting foods for a living, according to Fox News — and that’s just for entry-level work.
Or you might just make $15 for a few minutes of eating. You see, there are two types of taste-testing positions: those that are full-time jobs and those that are essentially consumer surveys. The former can be a great way to make a living, and the latter are a fun way to pick up some extra income.
Food Tasting Jobs Aren’t Easy to Get
Landing the better gigs can be challenging. When MMR Research hired just 10 part-time food tasters a couple years ago, they had 400 applicants, according to GrubStreet.com. Candidates had to take “taste and odor recognition tests,” be above average in perception skills, and be articulate in their descriptions of the food. Once hired, they had to learn a whole new “lexicon of sensory descriptive analysis.”
The job itself isn’t always a walk in the park, either. Matthew, a frozen food taster interviewed on TheBillfold.com, says that he got blisters in his mouth from all the salt in the food he tasted. However, after he completed his training as a “sensory panelist,” he made $16.50 per hour.
But it still sounds great to get paid for tasting a new kind of frozen pizza or a tuna-flavored milkshake, right? OK, maybe not that milkshake. Let’s hope you only have to eat the good stuff (but you never know…).
Where to Find Food Tasting Jobs
Here are some of the “sensory testing companies” that manufacturers use to test their products. This list only includes companies that will offer a paycheck in exchange for your work; taste testing jobs that pay you only in coupons and free food are not included.
This company tests a variety of products for manufacturers. Food items you might evaluate as a tester include soup, cookies, sandwiches, frozen dinners and French fries.
When CTI has an assignment for you (which the company says will be only occasionally), you’ll be told how much the pay is and how long the testing will take, and you’ll be given directions to one of their field sites.
As I write this post, MMR is looking for a sensory research manager in New York, but you’ll need previous sensory research experience to apply. Other full-time positions regularly open up around the world.
This company will pay you for taste testing if you live near their “Sensory Services Department” in Northbrook, Illinois. This is part-time occasional work, and they note that “taste tests can last from 15 minutes up to one hour.”
Located in Alberta, Canada, CPTC needs taste panelists to evaluate foods that might include potato chips, yogurt, sports drinks, tortilla chips, energy bars, pork chops, chocolate, snack mixes, pasta meals, fried chicken, crackers and bison steaks.
Pay is minimal, starting at $15, with higher pay for longer sessions.
This company occasionally has sensory panelist positions available. Their full-time positions come with benefits.
In addition to independent sensory testing companies, some manufacturers also bring in food tasters directly. Here are three that do, as of this writing:
You can participate in product tastings once every three months if you live near their Hunt Valley, Maryland location.
If you’re within driving distance of Marshall, Minnesota you can be a taste tester for Schwan up to three times monthly. They pay a minimum of $15 per session.
Payment for taste-testing their soy-based products is not in cash, but in points redeemed for gift cards (for places like Starbucks, The Gap, Red Lobster and Best Buy).
These positions are also occasionally advertised on regular job websites. For example, searching Indeed.com for “food taster jobs” and “food tester jobs” yielded these three results:
- Taste Panel Specialist, Irvine, California
- Sensory Lab Technician, Arlington, Texas
- Taste Testers, Madison, Wisconsin
The jobs come and go quickly, so check often if you want the work.
What are the Requirements?
The full-time positions generally require a minimum level of experience. Some jobs require a degree in food sciences or a related field. The part-time and occasional assignments are open to just about anyone who meets these three criteria:
- Over the age of 18 (although some companies want kids too)
- Near a testing center
- No food allergies
Of course, being open to trying just about anything is a requirement as well. It’s a safe bet that if you refuse to eat that chocolate-flavored cheese, you won’t be invited back.
Your Turn: Would you like to be paid to be a food taster, or would you worry about what you’ll have to eat?