Taste Testing with Ocado

A couple of weeks ago, my children were invited by Ocado to do some food testing, in order for them to develop new products and listings over the next 12 months. My kids were terribly excited about this and considering all three of mine have differing tastes I thought it would be very interesting.

Research commissioned by online supermarket Ocado with 2000 parents and children, reveals that despite being time and cash strapped, parents are still spending on average up to an additional £2,000 a year making ‘kid-friendly’ dishes, and find themselves creating multiple dishes at meal times in order to please the entire household.

In addition, parents admit to spending an average of £48 a month on treats for their kids, with over two-thirds (68%) admitting that kids have a huge influence on their weekly shop, dictating what hits the conveyer belt when they get to the till.

According to Ocado’s research, food stress doesn’t stop in the shopping aisles.  Over half of parents (56%) say dinner time is an increasingly stressful battleground, with many struggling to get kids to finish meals.  1 in 5 mums admit they dish up no less than three different meals at dinner time, and 43% confess to bribing their children with treats just to get them to finish their meal. Looking to avoid conflict altogether, 40% even choose to eat out regularly to avoid the stress of making multiple meals.

To help parents and their kids strike a balance and reduce stress at meal times, Ocado launched a nationwide search for kids to join its tasting panel to enable the online supermarket to stock tasty flavours that will appeal to palates young and old. This is where my little bunch comes in, they were asked to give products their stamp of approval before they hit Ocado’s shelves over the next 12 months.

I do buy specially prepared kids food myself at times, for convenience on busy evenings when the children have activities, or if I want to make something a little bit more exciting for the adults (myself, OH and including Teen too). It means I can give the little ones something quickly, but equally I like to know the food I’m giving them is nutritious.

Many of the supermarkets now are providing a children’s microwaveable  range, the difference from the adult equivalent s is that they usually have less additives and more in the way of goodness. The draw back is that in some cases, the food is bland. So in that respect, I was hoping these meals from Ocado were going to prove a hit.

The testing was taking place in London, so off we hopped on the train…. my kids love these little seats by the doors on the tube!

kids on tubeMy three excited kids looking forward to joining Ocado’s tasting panel

When we arrived we were welcomed warmly by all the friendly Ocado staff and publicity personnel, the children were each given an apron and it was time to get down to business!

ocado taste testing

A plate with a small portion of a meal was brought out one at a time for the children to try. First up was sausage and mash… all full of healthy ingredients and no additives, this was the case for every single item of food given to them. Each of my children loved both the sausage, mash potato and the gravy… so a big hit! They were also given a piece of paper on which to mark down scores, by means of a smiley face…. ranging from absolutely delicious to yucky!! My children were amused by the ‘meh’ face!

Ocado Kids tasting panelThis is my daughter doing the ‘meh’ face!!

ocado taste testing

As the many dishes kept on coming, including meatballs, pasta as well as desserts including lots of fruits and fruit ice lollies…. there wasn’t any foods that my children didn’t like. Although I’m sure they made lots more effort to at least try these foods… something that children refuse to do at home sometimes!

Liz Fraser, family expert explained:  ‘The battle to get children to eat what we want them to, when we want them to, has probably existed since cavemen were serving up roast bison. By involving little ones in the food choosing process, and even the cooking, they are much more likely to enjoy and consume what you put on their plate, meaning less arguing at the table, and a reassurance that our children are eating a good, healthy meal.’

Lawrence Hene, Director of Retail at Ocado said, ‘We know that kids are more vocal than ever when it comes to food choices and have often tasted more foods at primary school age than their parents had by their late teenage years. While it’s great that we have a generation of kids interested in their food, we want to ensure that parents are not left battling with them at the dinner table. That’s why we’re opening up our tasting panel to involve kids for the first time, allowing them to give their favourite products a ‘child proofed’ stamp of approval.’

 LIZ FRASER’S TOP TIPS FOR PARENTS WHEN TRYING TO CREATE HARMONY AT THE DINNER TABLE

  • What we choose ourselves, we tend to enjoy more and it’s the same with children and food. Let them see cookery books, choose things they like the look of, and then let them select the ingredients, help with the cooking, and enjoy the whole process.
  • Colour is important for some children, so letting them choose bright vegetables, green pasta, orange cheese and so on can make them want to eat it more!
  • Remember that children’s taste buds are less developed than ours, and can be very sensitive to tastes that we find very mild. This is especially true of some dark green vegetables, and tomatoes. For some children it’s like eating lemons covered in chilli! So don’t be cross if they refuse to eat certain foodstuffs; often it’s a phase that eventually passes.
  • Having said all that about choice, I do really believe in children eating what they are given, and having to deal with that. I only ever make ONE meal for the whole family, and sometimes they like it more, sometimes less. But that’s all about learning new tastes, and learning to eat things you don’t necessarily love – which is an important skill when they are older. So long as you always try to bear in mind what they like, and factor that in in some way, they should be able to eat some of every meal, and have a health, balanced diet.

My children thoroughly enjoyed their taste testing, it was definitely a fun way to entice them into trying different tastes. My daughter used to be incredibly fussy, she’s a lot better now but still has a mental block with some foods, purely based on their texture and nothing to do with taste! She won’t, for example, go anywhere near most fruits… she can’t bear the flesh… but at least here with the Ocado tasting panel she was giving it a go and I was very proud of her! She has even been asking for me to hurry up and order the foods she ate!

ocado taste testingMy daughter and the rest of the kids taste testing panel for the younger age group!

We will be keeping our eyes peeled for the new kids ranges as they filter into the stores soon!

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