From fields to factories
From here, the crisps are off around the country – often less than 60 minutes after arriving at the factory as potatoes.
Matt Cullingworth, a sensory and consumer product insight manager, explained to us that his panel of supertasters had to jump through a series of taste-related hoops to make the cut.
From meat to tatties
Walkers wasn't always such a high-tech venture… in fact, it wasn't even always in the crisp business.
The household name started out as a tiny butcher's shop in Leicester, bought by Henry Walker in the 1880s.
Walkers was in the meat game for decades, but rationing after World War Two caused the demand for meat to plummet.
In 1948, the company faced no choice but to change direction and start mass-producing crisps, since potatoes were abundant and crisps had started to become popular with the public.
Making a packet
Do you have what it takes to be a crisp supertaster?
- Can you identify and name the five pillars of taste?
Picking up on the five pillars of taste is essential. Can you decipher and say whether something you’ve eaten is sweet, sour, bitter, salt or umami? You will be tested on something simple like an apple – if you can describe it accurately with the right tasting notes, then you might be in with a shot. Equally, you need to like eating most things – vegetarians or vegans may struggle in the job.
- Are you fully sighted?
It might seem as if tasting is all about your tongue, but Walkers Supertasters observe do a lot of appearance testing too. Products are held under red lights in the lab to show appearance differences so if you are partially sighted or colourblind, this could be difficult.
- Do you have a strong sense of smell?
Smell plays a very important part in your tasting process, so you will be expected to decipher and name different odours during the recruitment exam.
- Are you a regular smoker?
Smoking hampers your taste bud regeneration so regular smokers can’t adequately taste the five flavour pillars, which might jeopardise your suitability as a champion taster.
- Can you work part time?
As tasters are only allowed to work eight hours a week – typically on a morning – the ideal candidates will need to fit other work around this schedule. The pay is £14 an hour so it’s certainly not enough to live off, but could be a fun part-time role.
Once the taste testers have agreed on a flavour, it is seamlessly added into the production process, which is automated smoothly from start to finish.
"You'll find that the seasoning contains a lot of the original herbs and spices, so, for example, you're eating more coronation chicken than you realise if you ate a bag of Walkers Coronation Chicken," says Ben.
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