Food Innovation and Research Studio

Toronto is home to the George Brown College Food Innovation & Research Studio, better known as, FIRSt.  This is the place where product development (like recipe testing), customer insights (such as sensory panels and nutritional analysis), and training & workshops (like cooking demonstrations and networking events) happen in Toronto.

FIRSt provides a great opportunity for culinary businesses to gain valuable consumer insights and conduct market research. A few Ontario-based clients include NONA Vegan FoodsEverspring Farms, and Embrace Foods.


Since I’m no Development Chef (except for when I’m in the comfort of my own home), I wanted to learn more about getting involved.

As part of the George Brown College Research Network, FIRSt invites a variety of people to participate in taste testing, open floor discussions, and questionnaires. So, when a friend of mine mentioned that they were looking for new palates to test out new creations, I was immediately intrigued.

I’ve participated in market research sessions before, but not in my adult years. When I was eight or nine, my mum signed me up for a few sessions. I remember looking at different colour charts for a juice box brand and explaining why I liked this orange compared to that orange. It was very empowering for a young gal and I was curious to see if I would get the same thrill in my adult years!

Partaking in market research groups is a fantastic way to learn about new products, unique ingredients, and upcoming food trends. FIRSt welcomes participants up to their beautiful 4th floor offices in the historic King Street East neighbourhood. As soon as the elevator opens, you’re right in the test kitchen!

The focus group session begins with participant introductions and discussions around similar products on the market. From there, the Research Facilitator engages in a lively q-and-a dialogue amongst the table while reviewing the overall look and feel of the tested product, flavours, textures, and marketing details like colours and packaging.

Often focus group participants receive a stipend for their involvement in the research, not bad for eating food! #JobPerks

I highly recommend getting involved with in this cool opportunity, all you need is an open mind and empty a stomach!

Check out the video below to learn even more about FIRSt. You can also click here to volunteer for sensory panels.

Featured image: FIRSt