Food Industry Research and Development
Food development research is how I always imagined Potions at Hogwarts would be. Less inanimate objects floating, but typically requiring a group of people from diverse disciplines collaborating to create or enhance a product.
Food industry research and development aims to create unique products and launch them successfully on the market. Before we delve into the process, here are a few objectives of the food industry research and development:
- Reducing costs to lower product prices
- Enhancing sensory attributes to make food more enticing
- Improving nutritional profiles
- Making products friendly for various dietary requirements
- Improving food safety
- Increasing convenience
- Offering a wider variety of food choices to consumers
These benefits require consistent product improvement or a considerable product step modification. Conventionally, the latter is a result of the latest technology being leveraged across the manufacturing process ranging from sourcing fresh produce, ingredients, techniques, and storage. However, this can also be the result of understanding evolving consumer needs.
Product Development Key Stages
Here are the primary stages of food research and development:
The Stage and Gate Process
The presence of checkpoints within all stages acts as funnels. This helps collaborators determine whether the project needs to be continued or scrapped. One way to do this is through a Stage and Gate System to strategically develop unique products with optimized usage of time and resources.
While we may only ever witness the advertisements and proceed to pick the product off the shelves, food development research is a layered, complex process. Let’s deep dive.
Brainstorming brings in several ideas which are subsequently researched and evaluated. Once the brainstorming is done, the target demographic is identified. Current market trends and preferred flavor pairings are identified and followed to understand how customer preferences are evolving.
Spoonshot is an excellent resource in your arsenal, especially at this stage, to study current trends for product ideas. Spoonshot’s AI seamlessly connects diverse data using food science domain expertise to reveal the future of food.
Also Read: Food Trends & Predictions for 2022
Our #foodbrain has been developed to understand the disciplines of food science, consumer insights, marketing, and the product development journey. While trends evolve with time, several products over the last few years or even decades, ranging across comfort foods, plant-based foods, and gluten-free foods, have been maintaining a steady trend.
Spoonshot works to analyze data related to the physical and chemical characteristics of diverse ingredients. This provides a comprehensive understanding of how various ingredient interactions influence a recipe. Further, our proprietary AI delivers credible insights that are highly relevant to the project.
Other elements we examine in building insights include nutritional data, specific components related to sensory data, and food processing technologies.
At this stage, a few ideas will be discarded as they are probably already in the market or because the ingredients or processing are more expensive than similar products in the category. There will be other ideas that will seem incredible but will be far too niche. This will lead to the product not retaining the broad target audience required to be a success.
Brands typically run into issues at this stage with regional vs. global preferences and market size vs. target market. For instance, flavor combinations that are generally familiar and enjoyed in certain parts of the country may not be preferred in other parts of the country. This may be because these flavors are unfamiliar or consumers in these parts of the nation do not like those flavors.
Ideating requires taking into consideration the size of your target market. If your target market is a small part of a particular product category and the category is also relatively small, the potential market share for your product may not be large enough. Brands run into trouble here by developing products they may like, but it is essential to create products for the target audience.
The ideation stage primarily weeds out ideas and passes on the best ideas to the next step.
The formulation stage involves producing the product on a small scale, followed by consumer testing to determine interest.
In this food research and development stage, the products go through successive gates/filters. This allows the brand to pick those products that have generated sufficient consumer interest to progress through to the other stages.
A sub-stage within Formulation includes obtaining all the ingredients required and manufacturing the product on a small scale. This is followed by setting the gold standard of the latest product.
The possible issues brands typically face at this stage include:
- Sourcing the required ingredients
- Keeping the ingredient cost within the budget
- Evaluating the product shelf life (While not often tested in the formulation stage, it is essential to consider this early in the food research and development process)
- Determine if the product can be made on a large scale
- Avoid Intellectual Property infringements
During this stage of food research and development, 2 to 3 of the shortlisted products from the previous stage are chosen and their production is scaled up using industrial-grade equipment to cater to a greater volume of customers. This stage, with its multiple runs, will allow brands to get an accurate working of the costing and the efficiency.
Typically the formulated product process is “scaled up” more than once through pilot plant testing. Scaling up determines production costs and efficiency and helps refine the process.
Food safety, quality testing, and shelf-life testing are also performed at this stage. This allows the brands to establish specifications, evaluate food safety concerns, and estimate shelf life.
The key questions to be considered in this stage are the effects of the processing on the following characteristics:
- Sensory Qualities
- Nutritional Profile
- Product Specifications
- Shelf Life
- General Functionality
This stage of food research and development involves getting the product ready to sell. This includes the final costing, further customer sensory testing, and container/packaging design. This will also include figuring out the logo, and the nutritional information and developing marketing strategies with the respective teams.
The last gate ensures that no errors or substantial liabilities have been overlooked before launching the product. From about 12 ideas in the ideation stage, these filters weed out ideas until there are only 1 or 2 viable products.
Individual brands may go through the different stages of product development based on the resources available, the deadlines in place, and the product categories being developed.
When working on food development research the product is likely developed from scratch from the ideation stage. This leads to in-depth research into market trends, consumer preferences, and product categories to detect potential drawbacks.
Here are a few key aspects of food development research for this stage:
- Product positioning for optimum sales
- The features to emphasize
- Where will the product be placed at the store?
- The effect of the distribution system on product quality
The Road Ahead
Customer expectations today are heavily focused on sustainability, transparency, taste, and emotional connection. Smaller brands that grew within the digital landscape are ahead with their agile framework. This allows them to take over the market share of well-established brands that have to deploy technology-led solutions to fight back.
After the launch of the new product, success is measured using key metrics such as:
- Response on omnichannel platforms
- Increase in sales
- Growth in market share
- Company sales revenue
This blog post series focuses on the effort and brainstorming it takes to ideate, create, manufacture a novel product, and launch it successfully. Let us know what you want to read about!