Crisps chef Chris Barnard Executive chef for NPD, Kettle Foods

A professional chef by trade, Barnard became the company's head chef after a chance encounter with Kettle Chips' US owner. Since then, he has embarked on a crusade to get real food tastes in his crisps. "I want Cheddar cheese and not cheese flavouring," says Barnard. The company hand-cooks its crisps so that it can control the flavour that is produced. A lot of suggestions come from Kettle Chips' customers, who can submit their recipes online. The weirdest flavour that Barnard has ever created? Potted shrimp and lemon.

Tea grower Jonathan Jones Garden director, Tregothnan Tea

Jones looks after the UK's largest private garden on the Tregothnan estate in Cornwall, and one of his duties includes overseeing the development of the UK's first tea plantation. Jones won a Nuffield scholarship in 2002 that allowed him to study tea cultivation in China, India and South America. "Tea is still the number one drink in the world and we are looking to capitalise on that," says Jones. Jones plans to look into the potential of selling fresh tea leaves as a salad crop, and at plugging his idea of edible bouquets. "I've not had any success with the supermarkets yet, but I'm working on it," he says.

Rugby fan Lee Bailey Sponsorship manager, Guinness GB

If you're an avid rugby fan, discussing the game for your job sounds ideal. The only downside is that Bailey doesn't often get to see the Guinness Premiership rugby his company sponsors. "I'm always working!" A big part of his job involves looking after the Premiership's 12 league clubs. The highlight of his career? When the Newcastle Falcons had a hot tub competition. "Former England international Dewi Morris had to do his link for Sky TV in front of a hot tub full of women. The look on his face was fantastic," says Bailey.

Wine blender Barry Dick Wine and spirits product developer, Sainsbury's

Dick's job requires a robust liver - he travels the world sampling the finest wines and spirits. He joined Sainsbury's four months ago and has a BSc in food technology, an MBA in European food marketing and a diploma in winemaking from the University of Adelaide, reputed to be one of the best winemaking schools in the world. He describes himself as a "flying winemaker", applying his training in wine regions across the world (he's worked in France, Spain, Australia and California). "The most thrilling part of my job comes from creating wines and seeing the enjoyment that tasting them brings," says Dick.

Curry taster Josh Patel Trainee food technologist, Patak's

What attributes are imperative for a curry taster? "A good palate and the ability to eat Indian food for a great proportion of the day," says Patel. It's a good job she loves curry so much because every day she has to taste a sample from each of the batches of products that were prepared during the previous 24-hour period to ensure they meet the company's standards. "There aren't many jobs where you can combine your job with your hobby," says Patel, "and I have the opportunity to learn from the experts, including Meena Patak. My family sometimes even asks me for recipes now!"

Juice blender Maria Cabrera Creative juice director, DBL

With a degree in botany, South American-born Cabrera is well-equipped to blend nature's finest ingredients to create heady concoctions. Her latest effort, Pomegreat, recently became the fastest-selling juice/juice drink in the UK. With 23 years of product development experience, she describes the process of creating new juice blends as "a science and an art. The science backs up the creative side and we get to translate wacky ideas into a product that can be manufactured for retail sale." Cabrera's job has so far taken her to Brazil, Israel and India, sourcing and then creating new flavours. Look out for a new Brazilian super-berry drink that she believes will take the market by storm.

Chip Technologist Pam Hume Head of new product development, McCain Foods GB

"I love food and I love fiddling about in the kitchen and getting paid for it," says Hume. She's tasked with a difficult proposition - creating tasty new products from the potato. Like many professional food tasters, although she admits to quite liking chips, "after 17 years the novelty wears off slightly". Hume loves her job because "every day is different and we experiment a lot". The most outlandish product she's dreamt up is a chocolate cake made from potato. "People eat carrot cake all the time, so I thought why not a chocolate potato cake?"

Petfood taster Fluffy Any petfood company plc

It's well known that food created for human consumption is tested on humans, but what about grub such as petfood? When we approached one leading petfood manufacturer about this, they vehemently denied the urban myth that their gravy-sodden morsels had been tested by human guinea pigs, but a member of The Grocer team insists she was once told by a reliable source from a dogfood manufacturer that their range had been tested by the product development team before being tried out on the brand's four-legged team of taste testers.

Chocolate Alchemist Micah Carr-Hill Product development manager, Green & Black's

Carr-Hill works with chocolate every day. He joined Green & Black's seven years ago, and attributes his success to his finely developed palate, the product of his days working in the wine industry. A typical working day for

Carr-Hill ranges from "tasting chocolates, biscuits, ice cream or hot chocolate to travelling around Europe looking for ingredients to put in a new recipe". He points to the "Gorgonzola dolce with dark chocolate" from Green & Black's Unwrapped recipe book as being one of the most unusual combinations he's encountered.

Ice cream taster Denis Emslie Sales director, Mackie's

Emslie has spent almost his entire working career tasting products for the companies he's worked for. "I worked for Heinz for ten years and sampled tomato soup every day and went off that. Then I worked for Burton's Foods tasting biscuits such as Wagon Wheels every day and I went off them as well," says Emslie. However, he clearly hadn't learnt his lesson because when ice cream producer Mackie's decided to set up a tasting panel six years ago, he was one of the 12 employees who passed a taste-testing course at a local university. As a result, once a week he gets to taste the company's existing products, new products in the pipeline and products created by rival companies.