Love Trying New Dishes? Get Paid to Eat as a Food Taster
Food tasting jobs combine our two favorite things: money and food. Getting paid to eat sounds like paradise!
And there are lucky people in this world who make their living as professional food tasters, sampling different dishes and rendering their professional opinions.
Now, can you make money by tasting food? It mostly depends on where you live and how good your sense of taste is.
You see, there are basically two types of taste testing positions: those that are full-time jobs and those that are essentially consumer surveys.
The full-time kind of gig can be a great way to make a living, but those jobs are super hard to get. The consumer surveys are more within most people’s reach, and they’re a fun way to pick up a little extra income.
Food Tasting Jobs Aren’t Easy to Get
We’re going to be honest with you: Landing the better gigs is really challenging.
Firms that hire professional food tasters are typically looking for candidates with culinary degrees, or people who are “super tasters” and who can identify different spices that have been added to a dish.
Just for example, when a food and beverage market research firm called MMR Research was hiring just 10 part-time food tasters, it quickly had more than 400 applicants, according to GrubStreet.com. Candidates for these coveted positions had to take “taste and odor recognition tests,” have keen perception skills and be articulate in their descriptions of food. Once hired, they had to learn a whole new “lexicon of sensory descriptive analysis.”
In other words, it’s not just about giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to some food conglomerate’s latest frozen pizza creation.
The job itself isn’t always a walk in the park, either. One frozen food taster interviewed by TheBillfold.com, says 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.
Where to Find Food Tasting Gigs
Here are food tasting gigs that might be more within your reach, although it helps to be located near one of these testing centers. These are “sensory testing companies” that manufacturers use to test their products. We’re also including some manufacturers that pay taste testers to try their products.
Most of these places have the same requirements — you must be at least 18 (or sometimes 21) and have no food allergies.
This list only includes companies that offer actual money in exchange for your work. Taste testing jobs that pay you only in coupons and free food aren’t included.
1. Contract Testing Inc.
CTI is one of the big daddies of the taste testing industry, and it tests a wide variety of products for lots of manufacturers. Food items you might evaluate as a tester include soup, cookies, sandwiches, frozen dinners and french fries.
To get started, you register with CTI and create a profile. To be frank, it helps to live near one of its nearly 20 North American locations, where the taste testing happens.
Locations in the U.S.: Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Milford, Connecticut; Mount Prospect, Illinois; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Troy, Michigan.
Locations in Canada: Brampton, Ontario; Calgary, Alberta; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Montreal, Quebec; Toronto, Ontario; and Vancouver, British Columbia.
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 the sites.
You’re allowed to participate in the taste testing studies only five times a year, at most. They pay at least $25-$30 for an hourlong session, but you could earn more depending on the type and length of the test.
2. McCormick Corp.
This Fortune 500 company specializes in spices, seasonings and condiments. It does most of its consumer testing at its headquarters north of Baltimore — but apparently some of the testing can be done at home, too, so you may as well register for the testing program and see what happens.
We’re just going to quote from McCormick’s website:
“You may be asked to sample a range of foods, snacks and beverages — during tasting sessions in the day or the evening — at our Hunt Valley, Maryland, location or from your home. You’ll be paid, of course. How much depends on the type and duration of the taste test. You can join the fun up to four times per year, once every three months.”
3. AOC Marketing Research
This company is based in Charlotte, North Carolina — in the suburb of Pineville — and most of its testing takes place there. You must live in the Greater Charlotte area.
Once you register with AOC, the company will contact you when a study starts up that matches your profile. The payment varies depending on the type of test. “A short, simple study could pay $30,” AOC says. “A longer, more complex study could pay $175 or more.”
4. Apex Life Sciences
This company has been known to post job ads on Indeed looking for part-time food tasters at its headquarters in Pleasantville, New York. We’ve seen reports that you can make $15 per hour for a maximum of eight hours a week — definitely a side gig, not a full-time job.
5. Consumer Product Testing Centre
Here you could taste-test bison steaks for the Canadian government.
The Consumer Product Testing Centre (CPTC) is in downtown Edmonton in the province of Alberta, Canada. It’s part of the Food and Bio Processing Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. It also conducts tests at the Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC) in Leduc, 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.
The pay is minimal, starting at $15 for a 15- to 45-minute panel, with higher pay for longer sessions. Participants are normally limited to three or four panels a year, max.
6. MMR Research
This company works with some of the world’s most successful brands and is known to post part-time taste tester jobs on Indeed. When we happened to check there, MMR was looking for “part-time sensory panelists and product evaluators” for $17 an hour, 12 hours a week in Frisco, Texas; with similar jobs in Pleasantville, New York; Warren Township, New Jersey; Trumbull, Connecticut; and Chicago.
7. National Food Lab
Another big player in the food industry, the National Food Lab conducts taste testing surveys in two locations: in Minneapolis, and in Livermore, California, east of the San Francisco Bay area.
The company sometimes needs taste testers to try various products. There are reports that it pays at least $25 per test, for a session of 30 to 50 minutes.
8. Schwan’s Company
Formerly known as the Schwan Food Company, it’s now called Schwan’s Company and it’s known for frozen food brands like Red Baron, Freschetta and Mrs. Smith’s frozen pies.
If you’re within driving distance of its headquarters, you can be a taste tester for Schwan’s consumer surveys. Unfortunately, Schwan’s is in Marshall, Minnesota, far away from any major cities.
9. TasteMakers Research Group
This company works with a lot of big-name brands like Kellogg’s, Del Monte and Pepsi. TasteMakers does most of its testing in the Los Angeles area, but it also does taste tests at various locations around the U.S.
When you register, TasteMakers will ask you a few questions about your dietary choices, where you buy groceries, whether you buy organic, any brands you’re loyal to, etc.
TasteMakers says it will reach out when a market research study is happening in your area.
If you live in Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area or in the East Bay area of California, you can register as a food tester for Tasteocracy. When you register, it’ll have you set up an account.
“The best way to find out about testing opportunities is to log in to your Tasteocracy account and click on ‘available studies’ on your account page,” the company advises. “We may contact you… but this will not occur for every test for which you are eligible.”
Tasteocracy has a location west of Minneapolis and another location just east of the San Francisco Bay area. Most tests pay about $40 and average about an hour.
So, those are 10 places that actually pay people to try different foods.
To sum up:
Everybody loves a taste test. Who knew you could get paid for it, too?
Steve Gillman contributed.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.