Sensory panel samples food products from entrepreneurs
by Jeff Meier
From the Fergus Falls Journal
Union Pizza & Brewing Co. in Fergus Falls hosted an event beneficial for both the cooks and the people tasting the food.
A packed house at the restaurant spread out over two tables and the bar area to try foods from various clients under AURI — an organization that promotes the development of food and other agricultural efforts from across Minnesota. The people attending tested eight products produced by entrepreneurs.
AURI stands for Agriculture Utilization Research Institute.
Almost every food had an accompanying grading sheet where the panel members were free to rate how they enjoyed the product and were able to leave comments.
“I’ve never had this before, and it’s very interesting,” AURI Project Manager Becky Philipp said after trying sourdough bread from Crookston. “The samples vary a lot, and it’s fun to try something new.”
The bread is made by two farmers Brian and Craig LaPlante, who started planning their product and making the bread about a year and a half ago. Brian said that the feedback they are getting from this event is valuable to them as they tweak their work.
“We look forward to feedback wherever we can get it,” Brian said. “We appreciate the opportunity, and it’s great to hear right from the source. We’re just getting into the process so it’s important to hear these reactions.”
“All of them have been excellent,” AURI Analytical Chemist Ranae Jorgenson said. “I get to taste a variety of flavors in my job and these products are no different in their quality and particular taste.”The creators of the product heard direct feedback from the panel after they were done trying the foods. The people on the panel were free to ask questions, give recommendations and explain how they felt about the food right to the creators.
Some of the product creators for the panel have been part of the organization and in the production business longer but appreciated the feedback just the same. One couple of that type was Josh and Kristin Mohagen of Terroir Chocolate in Fergus Falls. They have sold handmade chocolates from dark to sweeter types since 2013.
“You can have your own ideas about how your food tastes and what qualities it has, but you also need to hear from people in the area,” Josh said.
Josh said it is not only important to get their product into the hands of new customers but to be open and explain their process.
“We believe that people want to know where and how (the chocolate) was made,” he said.