Plain cream cheese home usage test

This taste test was run by the Sensory Service Center (SSC) at N.C. State University, on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, was a “home usage test,” and I was paid with a $20 Amazon gift card.

This is the first SSC taste test I’ve participated in that’s been a “take home test.” I loved doing it at home, because it allowed me to take captures of the screesn instead of trying to surreptitiously take pictures of them with my phone at the center, about which I’m always worried about getting caught, although I’m not sure what they’d do to me if they did catch me.

The prep

I had a 9:15 appointment to pick up my materials, which included a plastic knife, a plastic spoon, 5 samples of plain cream cheese and one plain, thin-sliced bagel cut in half.

Because I’m a veteran of these things, I had some Saltine crackers and some bottled water at-the-ready for “palate cleansers.”

Getting started

I logged into the web app with the testing instructions and forms in which to give our feedback, and this was the first screen.

Section 1: Tasting the first 4 samples

The first 4 samples (#205, #569, #716, & #808) used the typical format of these SSC taste tests, asking you to answer just a few questions about it before tasting it, followed by a lot of questions after tasting it.

6 of the questions before tasting

15 of the questions after tasting

This was a one-time question that appeared after tasting the 4th of the first 4 samples. I’ve included my responses in it.

After each of the first 3 samples, a screen like this one appears, but the timer is set to only 30 seconds. Once the timer expires, you can forward to the next screen to see which sample is next and then answer its questions.

So after the 4th sample, this unexpected—therefore dramatic10-minute pause got me really curious about what was going to be so different about the last sample. (I have let go of the fact that 10 minute needs a hyphen in their screen.)

Section 2: Tasting the final (#615) sample

The difference in this section about the 5th sample was immediate and striking, as it started off with a picture of the tub it would come in followed by a few questions about the packaging.


I waffled—between $4-4.99 and $5-$5.99—with my answer to this one, and eventually went with the more expensive one, mostly because food, in general, is so high anymore.

To be clear, however, what I’d expect to pay is very different from what I would pay. I would not pay that much for any tub of cream cheese.

The next 9 screens, of which I’ve captured only 2, is a typical device used in these surveys to find out what’s most important vs. least important to you.

They keep swapping out options, covering as many permutations as they can, to force you to make, sometimes difficult, choices about what is and isn’t important to you.

Leave a Comment