Cool jobs: I’m a chocolate taster’

2014-08-04 18:45

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Mondelez is a confectionery business that does data analysis on chocolate, and chewing and bubble gum. In simple speak, it’s a place where people

eat lots and lots of candy. Grethe Koen pays them a visit

In a random business park in Woodmead, northern Joburg, exists an office like no other. It’s called Mondelez and it’s filled with chocolate, gum and all things good.

Here, food scientists like PhD graduate Anreza van der Merwe make sure the chocolate on your store shelves are up to standard, every time.

It’s called sensory science and it’s about gathering objective, quantitative data to ensure a product’s quality.

Take a bar of Cadbury chocolate, for instance. There are currently Cadbury factories across the world.

If a new factory opens, the brand has to make sure that the chocolate produced in the new factory tastes the same as that produced at other factories in that country.

Or if the factory changes its sugar supplier or gets in a new piece of equipment, the slabs produced thereafter need to be tested to see if their taste hasn’t changed.

The chocolate team

It’s about uniformity. If you bought a chocolate from Pick n Pay two years ago in Cape Town, and you buy a slab from Spar in Durban now, you want to be guaranteed you’ll get the same taste you have come to know.

This is where Mondelez and its team of scientists and tasters come in.

Apart from the food scientists and staff at Mondelez, they recruit teams of chocolate tasters – consumers who come in every day to eat chocolate and rate it. They work four days a week for two hours a day.

The chocolate tasters either have group sessions – where they come together and collaborate their responses to the tasting – or they sit in special cubicles where they are fed chocolate and must rate the taste.

The cubicles are called hutches and are designed according to a global standard – each hutch is cordoned off on both sides to eliminate any sensory pollution or outside influences.

In front is a sliding panel where the scientists push the piece of chocolate through. Above the hutch is also a red light, which is used when scientists want to control how the colour of the chocolate appears.

Happy workers

I met some of these tasters, who were, unsurprisingly, an extremely happy bunch of people.

My first question was whether they ever get sick of eating so much chocolate, to which I got a resounding no.

Most of the tasters say they are chocoholics, and since you are only allowed a maximum of eight chocolate samples a day, they do not feel overloaded.

Although they only receive a small stipend per session, the tasters say it’s a fascinating, educational and interesting job.

So what does it take to be a chocolatetaster? Firstly, you should not have diabetes, and it is preferred that you are a nonsmoker.

You should also be able to articulate what you are tasting and be able to work within a group.

Lastly, you should be an absolute chocoholic, interested in every nuance of its taste. After all, there’s no point in being a chocolatetaster if you don’t like chocolate.

.?Want to be a chocolatetaster? Email Mondelez at

.?Food science is offered at various universities in South Africa, including Stellenbosch and the University of Pretoria

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