Co-op Food – Taste Test Panel


the challenge

In early 2012, The Co-operative Food came to us with a clear objective to increase the penetration of its own brand food products, having recognised that meeting or exceeding customer expectations was essential to achieving this. An extensive taste testing panel of Co-operative Group colleagues had been in place since 2009 to meet this objective, but they felt the existing process could be more robust and effective.

what we did

Working with Co-operative Food, we identified key improvement areas; developer and supplier buy-in, panel member recruitment, booking a test slot, criteria/selection of panel members, ongoing engagement of key stakeholders, fieldwork/data collection, and analysis and reporting. This led to a complete reinvigoration of the project.

how we did it

To address these improvement areas we made a number of changes to current processes within the Taste Team programme.

  • We held workshops with all developers and the Taste Team administrators, providing the springboard to collaborate on challenges and solutions in key areas – booking, running and reporting a taste test.
  • We set clear recruitment expectations and criteria so that everyone knew the process and the likely frequency of tests, but also their responsibilities as members of the Taste Team.
  • We worked with product developers to clarify the process of booking a taste test and reviewed the booking form completely to highlight key questions and streamline the process.
  • We set clear criteria for eligibility to take part in a taste test and manage expectations to keep colleagues engaged, as well as tracking selection to make sure no one was left out.
  • To maintain engagement we send a monthly email update, a quarterly newsletter, and hold a quarterly prize draw.
  • We have brought the method of data collection up to date with a combination of web and mobile completion options.
  • We also produce 6 monthly reports, picking out themes from all of the data we’ve collected, as well as the latest consumer trends.

the results

The newly configured programme has brought key reporting improvements including fully analysed open comments, and a diamond pricing model to help test price expectations. The Co-operative Food is now getting higher quality data, enabling better decision making, as well as numerous key commercial benefits from the newly developed programme. The service is now respected and more readily bought by suppliers, providing a revenue stream for The Co-operative Food. The profile of Taste Team has been raised internally – own brand is a key part of the Co-operative Food’s strategy and Taste Team has helped increase buy-in across all the businesses, not just Food. Finally, confidence has increased – developers are taking more action from the results…better products equal better sales.

We were proud to win the MRS Data Collection Award 2013 for this case study. Find out more in this short video.

the team


Matt Gough

Research Director

client quote


“The changes to the Taste Team programme, as implemented in collaboration with Join the Dots, have made a major impact on our ability to deliver great products. The re-invigorated programme has allowed the Co-operative to put customers at the heart of product development, understanding what

they want and expect from Co-operative Food own brand, and it ensures we deliver against these expectations. The buy-in to Taste Team goes to the highest level, reporting in to the monthly Board Meeting.”

Lisa Conerney
Taste Team Manager
The Co-operative Food