Cheese Study

How does tasting notes influence cheese tasting?


Design of Experiment



Survey Design

Data Analysis

Controlled Study

Project description
Project Partner: Amy Xiong

Background: Why Taste?

The research is inspired by the challenge of invasive lionfish in the Caribbean, which is resolved by introducing lionfish as a local food since they don't have natural predators.

The goal for the research is that by learning about the factors that contribute to tastiness of a food, we can develop ways to encourage people to eat healthier, to effectively introduce new food to people for economic and environmental reasons, and make food tastier for everyone in general.

Triangle of Point of View Communication

Why Choose Cheese as a Research Subject?

We used cheese because it has a flexible range of flavors and textures, and people don’t have fixed expectation of its taste before trying. It is also commonly accessible and acceptable food.

Research Journey

Experiment Procedure

  1. Recruit subject
  2. Moderator explains background of study
  3. Subject fills out beginning questions on survey
  4. Moderator describes cheese 1
  5. Subject cleanses palate with grapes
  6. Subject tastes cheese 1
  7. Subject fills out survey for cheese 1
  8. Moderator describes cheese 2
  9. Subject cleanses palate with grapes
  10. Subject tastes cheese 2
  11. Subject fills out survey for cheese 2
  12. Subject fills out remaining survey about purchasing decision & demographics
  13. Moderator debriefs experiment with the subject

Experiment Set-up

Simple Cheddar Cheese and Grapes Bought from Trader Joe's

Randomly generated cheese tasting order:

  • Treatment I: No Notes
  • Treatment IIa: flavor
  • Treatment IIb: flavor+texture

Flavor+texture notes: “This is a mild cheddar with anearthy, nutty flavor and floral hint. The texture is creamy and smooth.”

Flavor only notes:“This is a mild cheddar with an earthy, nutty flavor and floral hint.”

Quadric Survey

Testing outside of Stanford Coupa Cafe


People did not give statistically significantly higher tasting scores to cheese with tasting notes than without.(two-sample one-tailed paired t-test, p=0.32, n=30)
People did not give statistically significantly different tasting scores to cheese presented with the tasting notes that include both flavor & texture information than with only flavor. (two-sample one-tailed unpaired t-test, p=0.22, n=15)
The change in tasting scores between cheese with the tasting notes that include both flavor & texture information is not statistically significantly different than with only flavor. (two-sample one-tailed unpaired t-test, p=0.21, n=15)
People are not willing to pay a statistically significantly higher price when tasting notes are present than when there are no tasting notes. (two-sample one-tailed unpaired t-test, p=0.18, n=5)

Discussion of Results

  • More people tested at the Product Realization Lab courtyard were able to notice what we were testing (guessed the cheese were the same), than people at Coupa Cafe. This could be related to the design and engineering background of people at the courtyard.
  • 13/30 of people believed the two cheeses were different (10/16 at Coupa and 3/14 at the PRL courtyard). They were able to justify in their own words why they are different. Some of them used the words from tasting notes, such as“mild”, and some made up their own description, like “soft” and “sharp”. They were shocked when they found out the cheeses were the same and couldn’t believe it.
  • Notes could be a deterrent when it contains undesirable content. One subject mentioned she doesn’t like“nuttiness” in her food, so the nutty flavor in the notes made her to dislike that cheese.
  • Some followed up to understand what the previous cheese is when they noticed that the description was missing.
  • Several mentioned how they were able to notice the cheeses were the same by their similar look as well as the color of the block of cheese we showed. Recommended more deceptive methods, such as blind folding or using a foam block instead of the cheese block.
  • No statistical impact was discovered from the experiment, though interesting behaviors were observed.
  • Perhaps the lack of statistically significant impact of tasting notes on cheese preference was due to limited data points and inadequate experimental setup.
  • Next steps: 1)Experimental Set-Up:blindfolding, using 3 cheeses, “cheddar” 2)Participant Recruitment: draw from more diverse population 3)Survey: Capture reflections post-experiment

Video Presentation


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