Rachel Albert starts every morning with thoughtful sips of different drinks. Some mornings juice, others coffee; some days soft drinks, others tea. 

Albert is far more than a “taste tester”. She is a sensory scientist at The Coca-Cola Company, where her job is to gauge not only the flavor of a beverage, but also the way it feels, smells and looks. Her job is all about making sure that what shoppers like and want to eventually see on store shelves.

Every year, Albert convenes around 400 “sensory panels” using input from more than 700 employee volunteers at the company’s Atlanta headquarters alone.

Unlike Albert, these panelists don’t have a food science background. By day, they work in various departments at Coca-Cola – from finance to communications to IT – but their palates help fuel Coke’s product pipeline, including low- and no-calorie sparkling and still beverages. Panelists volunteer a few hours of their time each month.

“When we ask them why they love being a part of the panel, many say they love being able to contribute to the products and the beverages we put out,” Albert says. “At the end of the day, our goal as a company is to give our consumers great-tasting products. The sensory labs are a way that our employees and panelists can be involved in that R&D process to make sure that we are constantly able to supply our consumers with products that they know and love.”