As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.
If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].
Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.
Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].
Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.