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Not just taste: How we experience food through our senses

Life at Campbell’s

The crumble of a Pepperidge Farm cookie with its lingering butter flavor. The sweet and tangy taste of a hot cup of Campbell’s tomato soup. The distinct smell of Prego tomato sauce. What do they all have in common? They are all examples of sensory experiences with food!

Kate Williams, a Campbell nutritionist, sits down with Ompriya Makani, a member of our sensory team, to learn how she works with our chefs to improve the eating experience of our foods and beverages, and what led her to the unique career choice:

Kate: Can you share a bit about what you do at Campbell?

Ompriya: The sensory team connects our consumers and our brands by making sure the taste of our food meets consumers’ expectations. We do this by working with taste testers to gather feedback that helps us improve the flavor of our foods.

Kate: How do we use our senses to experience food?

Ompriya: Our senses interact and work together when we eat, and the tasting experience involves more than just our taste buds. It starts with our eyes—how our food looks.

Most of what we “taste” is actually sensed by our noses. If you had your nose plugged and were blind folded, you might notice that a drink is bitter and warm, but likely couldn’t differentiate coffee from black tea.

Even hearing plays a role in how we experience food—like the crunch we hear as we bite into a cookie!

Kate: What are the different ways sensory experts evaluate food?

Ompriya: We use three main types of sensory tests when looking at our food:

Kate: How did you become interested in becoming a sensory expert?

Ompriya: I was born and raised in India on my family’s farm. After my undergraduate studies in Horticulture—the science of growing fruits and vegetables—I helped my father plant, harvest, and sell a variety of dates. After a large harvest, we faced the challenge of selling 100 tons of dates in one month while maintaining quality, with limited distribution options. This influenced my decision to work on a master’s degree in Post-Harvest Management at UC Davis. I studied sensory and consumer evaluation of mangos from different Latin American countries, gaining experience in how sensory research is conducted, and the different types that are used.

Kate: What is your favorite part of your job at Campbell?

Ompriya: I’ve been working for Campbell for over 4 years, and one of my favorite things about my job is how diverse it is. I work with chefs, marketers, nutrition experts and of course the brands within our Meals & Beverage division. Each brand has a different perspective and brings unique opportunities for me to share my knowledge.

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