This article is for anyone looking to get paid to eat, but it’s especially beneficial for those individuals that also love food.
Even if you aren’t a food lover, chances are there is something that appeals to your palette, whether it is crispy french fries or decadent chocolate.
There are several ways you can get started in the food tasting industry. And most of them don’t even require a degree.
Though true professional food tasters will have a degree in food science or even go to culinary school for a certificate.
With a degree you could make on average $60K annually or more, though it is possible to get to this point without a Bachelor’s.
This article will focuses on the 15 best ways to get paid to eat and to earn money as a food tester.
Table of Contents
Food Tasting Careers
Raise your hand if you love ice cream. Personally it’s one of my top three favorite desserts.
There are so many different brands of ice cream. And a seemingly endless list of flavors. And new flavors are being developed everyday.
Imagine if you could work as one of the people not only coming up with a new flavor but tasting it over and over again until you perfect the right ratio of sweet, creamy, nutty, cool deliciousness of a scoop of ice cream.
Ben and Jerry’s has Flavor Gurus. People they pay specifically to create and taste new ice cream combinations. From the extremely weird (potato chip ice cream anyone?) to the classic (extra, extra vanilla please).
If you didn’t want to go all out as a Flavor Guru, you could always snag a job at Ben and Jerry’s as a regular ice cream scooper behind the counter.
You would be getting paid hourly but the real perk would be the chance to try out new flavors as they are debuted. I mean, you have to make sure your first batch is a good one right?
The next best thing after ice cream would have to be chocolate. This kind of career would give you a chance to taste, refine, and even come up with new recipes.
But if you want to go the entrepreneur route, you could try to get a gig as a chocolate consultant. Lindt Chocolate lets people earn extra income by being so-called chocolate advisors.
On average, this kind of work could net you anywhere from $24K – $70K a year.
3. Food Critic
A lot of food critics work freelance and sell their experience to different publications. Or they can work directly for a magazine or publisher that sends them out to different restaurants to critique.
Another option would be to start a blog and then go around your city or town and start writing about the dining experience. A good portion of being a food critic involves being a good writer too.
If you want to be successful in this, get used to taking in all the details. You will want to visit a restaurant several times to get a sense of the food, setting, staff, and general dining experience.
As a good critic you will want to try to gain a following, so stay up on your social media. The more people paying attention to you, the more you will get paid.
It likely took a food scientist to turn something like vanilla creme cookies into a low-carb, low-sugar version of themselves.
Food Scientists are behind a lot of the modifications made to food in order to make them healthier.
As a food scientist you could work anywhere, but most work for specific companies. There’s even a chance to work for Disney to make healthy food more appealing to children while at the amusement parks.
A food scientist degree is typically a four year college program. But once complete, you could see yourself starting at about $60K a year.
If you’re the one in charge of making the food, chances are you have to do a whole lot of sampling along the way.
As a chef you will end up going through a lot of trial and error as you perfect recipes. Recipes you will have to eat in order to determine if they are perfect yet.
Most chefs will start out by working in a restaurant, often where you are making other people’s recipes, that you still get to try. From there, as you gain more experience, you might be asked to come up with something new.
Depending on where you work, a chef’s starting salary can be anywhere from $20K – $60K and this number will only grow as you pick up more experience.
Sign Up With Food Tasting Market Research Companies
So those were all careers that focus on food testing. Not everyone reading this will have the time, dedication or even the inclination to pursue eating food as a career.
But anyone can do it as a side job every once and awhile. There are market research companies out there specifically made to find candidates to test out food.
The biggest advice I have for anyone wanting to test food for companies is to be agreeable to everything when they send you a questionnaire.
Even if you don’t like the flavor of oranges or the taste of cheese, just say you do so that you don’t get disqualified from a test and a chance to get paid.
According to their website, Contract Testing, Inc. or CTI, is chosen by more than half of the top 10 food, beverage and QSR companies to conduct product testing.
CTI is solely about product testing and connecting companies with future consumers to try out foods and share their opinion.
And while a lot of the focus is on food, you could also be asked to try out household products and personal care items.
But really, I’m sure most of us would rather food test donuts, pizza and wine over household supplies. Not that I would turn down paper towels or toilet paper.
A majority of the tests will take place at one of their 12 locations, which are:
- Los Angeles, California
- Newark, New Jersey
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Milford, Connecticut
- Atlanta, GA
- Detroit, Michigan
- Brampton, Ontario
- Calgary, Alberta
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Montreal, Quebec
- Halifax, Nova Scotia
- Toronto, Ontario
To get started with CTI you need to register and create a profile. This will help CTI set you up with clients looking for your specific demographic and locale.
Once your registration is complete you just need to sit back and wait. CTI will email you when there is a new test available that you qualify for.
They’ll send you a questionnaire to fill out and if you’re a match, they will send you a time, date and location about the testing details. You won’t know exactly what you’re food testing until you arrive.
While you could get several emails a week, you may not always be able to make the scheduled testing even if you qualify. This is especially true if you have a full time day job. I’ve found most of the testing to take place during the day time.
When you arrive for your test you can expect to taste, touch, smell, or even just look at a product. You’ll have a worksheet to fill out to share your opinion.
I would advise you to accept as many test jobs as you can to maximize your earning potential. Most tests will net you between $20-$25 per session, but sometimes if it’s longer or from a high end company, you could get as much as $75 for a single round of testing.
Most often the food testing takes up very little of your time. At most an hour, but you’ll be informed upon arrival if it will take longer than that.
After you complete the food testing, you will be paid immediately. In general you’ll get paid in cash, but in some cases you could get paid with a gift card.
Also, just so you know, CTI isn’t limited to adults. Parents can register their young kids and teens as there are several companies seeking feedback from kids for items that appeal to a younger demographic.
To become a panel member for Discuss Research is completely free and the information you share remains confidential.
To get started with Discuss Research, you’ll need to register and provide a valid email. Be prepared to provide some personal information like annual income, illnesses and the city that you reside.
Discuss Research will contact you when a new study is available. Or they will call.
Discuss Research primarily conducts their testing as part of a consumer focus group. Yes, this means you will be part of a group, sharing your opinion over a particular food or product.
Focus groups can last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes and for your time, you’ll get paid between $75 – $250 in cash. The exact amount will vary based on the type of focus group.
Also, please note that most focus group studies take place during the week in the evenings. This is perfect for anyone who works 9-5 and isn’t available until the evening anyway.
For in-person focus groups, you will be provided with light refreshments or a meal. Though don’t expect every focus group to be in person.
They will either be conducted directly at market research facilities, through an online chat group or even over the phone.
Outside of focus groups, you could be called in for a hall test. In these tests you could be asked to sample a product or simply give your opinion on the packaging and label.
I like that Discuss Research gives their members several options and ways to earn money. In addition to focus groups and product testing they have phone interviews where someone will ask you about a product.
They also have face to face interviews. Or you could be asked to be a mystery shopper, so companies can understand how consumers buy particular products.
8. Market Force
Market Force is all about mystery shopping. As a mystery shopper, they pay you to eat and shop at some of the top restaurants in your area. Though they may occasionally not send you to a place with food and instead send you to an electronics store.
Mystery shoppers are important because they tell brands how their business is going and how they can improve their business to reach more consumers and keep current customers loyal.
A lot of the restaurants you may be checking out will be fast food.
For every job you sign up for, you will know right up front how much you can expect to earn. The amount isn’t much. It can be anywhere from $6 to $12 a session.
The cool thing about Market Force is their app that is specifically for mystery shoppers. This greatly streamlines the process and lets you find jobs in your area as they become available. So no need to wait for an email.
The app will list the jobs available around you up to a ten mile radius. You will be able to see the type of restaurant, the address, shop and the reimbursement or payment amounts.
A lot of the jobs may just reimburse you for eating there, giving you a free meal. But sometimes you’ll get reimbursed and paid for your efforts too.
After completing a job, you will usually have to fill out a short report or submit photos to prove you were where you were supposed to be.
One thing to note about mystery shopping is to make it worth your while. Use the app to see which locations are most convenient for you.
You don’t want to end up wasting gas to get somewhere only to not get paid enough to cover the cost of getting there. Choose the jobs that are most lucrative or the ones along your normal driving route for the day.
Founded in California in 2010, Taste Maker’s is one of the top choices when it comes to putting together consumer testing for different companies. They also partner with a lot of big name brands like White Claw, Pepsi, and Kellog’s.
They offer testing year round at their location in LA, but do conduct tasting at various locations around the U.S. When you register, you’ll provide your personal information and be informed of tests in your area as they become available.
To sign up with Taste Maker’s is free. You answer a series of questions about food and beverages you are interested in, if there’s a brand you are loyal to, and where you like to shop.
Then you’ll provide a bit of personal information like income and household size, before finally providing your first name, email address and an optional phone number.
They’ll contact you when a voluntary market research study is available.
Apex offers contract positions where you can earn regular income as a sensory panelist or taste tester. On average you can make about $15 an hour working up to 6 to 8 hours every week.
You have to be between the age of 21 and 65 and have zero food allergies. It also helps to be within at least a 10 to 15 mile radius of the testing site as you could get called in randomly for a food test.
As a taste tester you will sample food and share your opinion on everything from the saltiness of a particular item to the texture, smell and presentation.
Location Specific Food Testing
I wanted to throw out a few other food tester options, even though these ones are more location specific.
Schwan Food Company is located in Marshall, Minnesota. Primarily, Schwan is a company that sells fine frozen food to stores.
Since Schwan regularly comes up with new recipes, they often seek out taste testers that are local to them in Minnesota to gather some kind of public opinion.
You have a chance to test food for them up to three times a month. They pay a minimum of $15 per test and each test lasts about twenty minutes.
Companies choose AOC because it is fully equipped to handle super simple or fancy taste testing scenarios. Their in-house kitchen is designed to take on projects big and small.
Their office is located in Charlotte, North Carolina and most studies take place directly on site. Though if the location is elsewhere, you will be informed.
You do have to be 18 or older to register, but parents can provide the name and age of their children interested in participating. Sometimes tests are geared toward kids, at which point AOC will contact the parents for permission.
After registering, AOC will contact you when a study has become available. They will ask you more questions to make sure you are a good fit for the test they have in mind.
If you meet the criteria, they will let you know the date and time of the test and have you confirm you can attend. All further details will be emailed.
AOC rewards their participants immediately after completing the food test and this is usually in the form of a Visa Reward Card.
The exact amounts will vary based on the type of test. Something short and simple could pay you $30, while a longer, more involved test could pay around $175.
McCormick is located in Maryland. Most tests are done at their Huntsville location, though some testing can be done in the comfort of your own home.
After registering for free, you’ll be placed in McCormick’s database. They randomly pick from this database based on the information you provide and the demographic that you fit in.
They’ll send you an email with some questions about an upcoming test. If your answers meet their requirements, they’ll let you know when the test is and how much you will earn.
You may be asked to try out a beverage, food, snack or even just a type of seasoning. Tests are only done Monday through Friday, during the day or evening.
Testers have to be a minimum of 18 years of age, but parents can add their dependents to their account to be available when a child or teen is needed for a test.
MCormick conducts market research testing every three months. This means you only have a chance to participate four times a year. So while this is a good way to make quick cash, it’s spread out enough you might want to keep some other places on hand too.
National Food Lab is a big name in the food industry and located in Livermore, California. They are regularly seeking out new individuals to partake in food testing.
Testers can participate several times a year. After enrolling for free, you’ll be notified by phone or email about upcoming tests. Sometimes it might only be a survey about a food that you don’t even have to sample.
All tests are conducted at their Livermore facility.
They pay a minimum of $25 for a test that will take less than an hour of your time. You could get paid more if the test is longer.
If you’re in the Twin Cities metro area of Minnesota or reside within the East Bay of California, you can sign up to register as a food tester for Tasteocracy.
While you do have to be 18 or older to sign up, kids can be registered too for child specific food tests. They’ll also take on people with food allergies, but be aware that you may not get contacted as much because of this.
Though Tasteocracy will call or email you with available tests, they differ a bit from the other food testing sites I’ve mentioned because they allow you to set up a real account. You can log into this account to see what surveys are available.
If you opt in with their mobile services, they’ll text you. This way you can be informed of new tests even faster.
Most tests average about an hour in length. These tests pay $40. If it is longer, you’ll get paid more.
Tasteocracy has different types of tests. Single day, multi-day, and home tests. Single day tests pay you right after the test while the multi-day will pay you at the end of the series or completion of the last test.
For home tests, a check is mailed to you within two weeks of taking the test.
One added perk of Tasteocracy is that if you refer a friend or family member and they create a profile, you will be entered into their $100 monthly drawing.
A Food Tester’s Basic Skills
Excellent Sense of Smell
Even though a food tester gets paid by putting food in their mouth, 80% of tasting food is actually based on smell. If your sense of smell is off, chances are you won’t be one of the super successful food testers.
Those aiming to make this a profession will undergo very specific questions and scenarios where they have to break down all the nuances of food.
Stellar food testers can detect whether a dish had a specific spice added to it or that a glass of wine was aged in an oak barrel. It is an amazing skill set to have and one that keeps professional food testers well paid.
If you are going to get serious about being a food tester, then it’s not just about shoveling a bunch of food in your mouth.
In fact, when you’re not testing food, your diet should try to be on the healthier side, in order to keep your taste buds at the ready for the next test thrown your way.
It’s also a good idea to refrain from smoking and drinking as those can affect the way you perceive food.
Willingness to Try Weird Food
As a food tester, you won’t have control over the food you may be asked to try. While you can certainly turn down something if it is just too weird for you, you don’t get to pick and choose your tests.
You may end up working for a company that needs you to rank the merits of mustard or cans of sardines. There are even food testers for dog food…and hey, if the price is right, you might be willing to give it a go.
If you want to snag testing jobs regularly, keep your mind and mouth open to new and strange possibilities.
Now that I’ve touched on some key skills you’ll want to have to be a successful food tester. Let us look at the different ways you can get paid to eat.
It would be totally awesome to have your breakfast, lunch and dinner covered regularly by working as a food tester. Not only would you get paid to eat but you’d get to save money too.
Chances are things won’t work out that perfectly, but you can still count on several of these to be a tried and true way to earn income and fill your belly.
Food testing can be turned into a career or it can be a nice side job for anyone looking to make some extra cash.
Just keep in mind that as a food tester you may be required to try weird things or foods you just don’t like. But to make $40 for an hours worth of work, I think many can make the effort to scarf down anchovy flavored ice cream…though hopefully your test won’t be that bad.
If testing food appeals to you, let me know in the comments below if you try any of these links. Tell me about the craziest food you had to sample!
Or if you already work as a food tester, let me know your experience or if there’s a cool company out there I haven’t mentioned.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these 15 best ways to get paid to eat and to earn money as a food tester. If you have something that’s not on this list and should be, let us know in the comments below!