Taste tests

Taste tests

At Which? we test food and drink ranging from everyday items such as orange juice, olive oil and ketchup to pricier luxury items like champagne and specialist cheeses.

All our taste tests are 'blind' so whether we use a consumer panel or experts, no one know the brand they're sampling.

Interesting taste test stats:

  • A consumer panel taste test can consist of around 720 tastings
  • In our taste test of baked beans Branston came out on top and Heinz came 4th
  • In our taste test of mayonnaise Lidl's Vita D'Or was our top Best Buy and was three times cheaper than leading brand Hellman's.

The results of our taste tests feature regularly in the monthly which? Magazine. Read about these, and more, by taking out a £1 trial subscription.

How do we conduct a taste test?

We'll use an expert panel around five tasters for high-end items, such as premium coffee, when a trained palate is needed to identify subtle differences. We also use an expert panel for items where a consumer may not know what to necessarily look for and wants guidance on what to buy.

For everyday items such as orange juice, mayonnaise and baked beans we use a consumer panel consisting of around 100 tasters, with each person tasting up to six samples. The number of times the products are rated makes the results statistically valid.

What do we taste test?

Sadly, we can't taste every brand on the market as we don't have enough room in the magazine. Instead, we concentrate on products that are widely available nationwide and choose products that are like-for-like, so we don't pitch premium ranges against budget ranges.  We typically include between 10 and 14 products in a tasting, although on occasions we can manage to squeeze a few more in. For example, our wine tasting panel can manage up to 30 products, however we do let them take breaks.

In both expert and consumer taste tests the samples are rated on taste as well as other attributes such as aroma, texture and appearance . We decide on weightings for each of these factors for each product as, for example, the aroma of ice-cream isn't as important as the aroma of coffee or balsamic vinegar.  Our statisticians ensure that our data for deciding Best Buys is robust.