TROY — Over 100 third, fourth, and fifth graders at Hook Elementary got to put their taste buds to the test during a special visit from Conagra Foods on Thursday morning.
Emily Neu, marketing manager for K-12 school food service at Conagra, conducted the test with Hook students, asking them to sample multiple breadstick products, and then evaluate the product with a provided questionnaire.
Students answered questions such as how much they liked or disliked the product’s overall flavor and appearance, and how likely they’d be to eat each product if it were served in their cafeteria.
“We’ve developed a different dough formula for a new product, and we’re wanting to get the students’ comments on how it compares to another competitive product,” said Tina Bulle, director of category marketing at Conagra. “Elementary and middle school students are our core consumer for this product. Obviously, we’re hoping that we’re preferred over the competition.”
According to Bulle, the taste test at Hook could be one of many, depending upon the first session’s results.
“We’re starting here at Hook, but may continue the process at other locations,” Bulle said. “It depends on whether we have to change anything based on the outcome of this test. All kids are very honest when filling out our surveys, so the results are always interesting.”
The taste test was organized thanks to an ongoing partnership between Conagra Foods and Troy City Schools.
“When the staff at Conagra needs somebody locally, they’ll reach out to us periodically,” said Clint Hufford, food service director for Troy City Schools. “We’re told a range of grades they’re looking to sample with, and then I’ll work with the principals to see what’s available. I try to rotate between the elementary schools to give all the kids equal opportunity to voice their opinions and let them see a bit of the real world.”
Despite conducting taste tests at other schools in the district, this marked the first occasion Hook Elementary got to participate.
“Clint Hufford reached out to us to participate in this trial,” said Hook principal Penny Johnson. “This was very fun. It teaches kids they have an opinion to voice, and that you can use that voice in a respectful manner to let somebody know how you feel about something.”
“It’s a great partnership with Conagra that we have,” Hufford said. “Kids all over the country provide feedback that go into big decisions for Conagra, and when it’s coming from our kids in the district, that’s great.
“I know all the kids get very excited leading up to the taste tests. It’s something new for them. It’s a break from your typical school day, and they get to eat some good food at the same time.”