Bonn Germany's first tasting house has opened in Bonn. There, test subjects try everything from oat drinks to fish fingers. In this way, companies can see how products they have developed are received. The GA took a look at the testers' plates.
Three oat drinks, a fish finger, gnocchi and two types of chili con carne: an unusual menu sequence, but after all, no one is in the sober white tasting room of the tasting house for fun. What happens here is work, at least if you really want to call eating work. After all, as a participant, you are putting your palate at the service of Normec Foodcare, testing and evaluating food and, in the best case scenario, helping to improve a product in the long term. This is a fascinating concept that is already a matter of course in the Netherlands and is now gaining a foothold in Germany.
At present, the tasting house in Bonn is the only one of its kind in the Federal Republic. Located on Dottendorfer Strasse, not far from Basecamp, it regularly hosts remunerated blind tastings with potential consumers. "There are three types of companies that turn to us," explains Probierhaus manager Jonathan Schweikle: "On the one hand, manufacturers who are in the development phase for a new product and want to know whether they are on the right track; on the other hand, food producers who already have a finished product and are looking for a comparison with competitors; and retail chains that want to know whether it is worthwhile to include a certain product in their range at all, or would like to hedge their bets regarding the creditworthiness of their own-brand products. In all cases, the aim is to elicit a consumer opinion. And that's exactly what we're doing here."
The tasting room is located in the AFC Consulting Group building, which has specialized in consulting for the agri-food industry for nearly 50 years. "Companies approach us because they want an objective opinion," explains AFC Group Managing Partner Anselm Elles. "In addition, they know that we not only offer consumer analysis, but can also express constructive suggestions for improvement. In doing so, we are not interested in the composition, as is the case with Stiftung Warentest, for example - we are more interested in how the product is perceived.“
To ensure that the testers' reactions are as immediate as possible, time in the tasting room is limited. About half an hour is allotted for each session, with around ten questions on the list for each product. Too sweet, too salty, too liquid, too spicy, or not sweet or salty or spicy enough? The testers are asked to state all that. "For me, this was an exciting experience," says participant Lukas Blotz. "Especially the direct comparison between the different oat drinks was very revealing." Jana Kilimann, who is currently completing an internship at AFC Consulting Group and unceremoniously came to the first floor to expand the pool of testers, sees it similarly. "There was no product that was totally disgusting," she emphasizes. "But I also just like the basic idea."
The Bonn tasting house is still in the set-up phase. "We test the products with at least 85 people and try to keep the group as homogeneous as possible, taking into account the respective target group," Schweikle explains. "Basically, anyone can sign up on our homepage." At present, however, the pool is manageable, as Schweikle admits. "Corona got in the way a bit," he admits, "so we're happy about every new test person. But we've only just started. In the Netherlands, tasting houses have been around for 20 years, and they test daily and on an unbelievable scale. I assume that this will also become established in this country. Taste is defined regionally, as the perception of taste is essentially shaped by culture. In this respect, I can well imagine that in the future we will also open tasting houses in southern Germany or the new German states."
(Original text: Thomas Kölsch / Translation: Mareike Graepel)