Each year, over 20,000 new food and beverage products are brought to market in the United States. A dizzying array of products hit the shelves with regularity from bakery goods to savory spreads, from side dishes to breakfast cereals. There is no shortage of products from which consumers can choose from. How then can you position your product to stand out from the multitude of other options already in the market or soon to be available? The answer lies in the product development phase. If your product is created using tried and true methods of development, the likelihood of consumer acceptance will be that much higher.
There are five key elements for developing your food products. Proper execution in each of these areas will dictate whether or not a product launch is successful or a bust. While no two products are the same and every project will have its own unique twists and turns along the development path, there are some commonalities to be found. We’ve selected what we feel are the five key elements for developing your food products. Making the right choices in these critical areas will ultimately define the success of bringing a well-received food or beverage product to market.
- SelectingThe Right Co-Manufacturer
- Ingredient Sourcing
- Sensory Testing Insights
- On Target Nutritional Values
- Third-Party Certifications
Selecting a Co-Manufacturer
For many, the most important decision that will dictate whether or not a product launch is successful will be selecting the right co-manufacturer as a partner. Most people are not professional food developers. While your Grandma’s pickled potato recipe might be well received within your family and circle of friends, taking that recipe and turning it into a popular new food selection at the local grocery store can be a challenge. For smaller companies, entrepreneurs, or individuals with limited knowledge of how to scale food products – hiring a co-manufacturer is not only a safe bet, it’s the logical first step in a successful product development plan. Co-manufacturers can help source ingredients, find and develop product packaging materials, get volume discounts for production runs, provide real-world expertise during the development phase and most importantly, be a trusted source in navigating what can be a complex process for those who are inexperienced.
It is important to do your due diligence when selecting a co-manufacturer. No two are the same. The skill sets a co-manufacturer brings to the table are varied. It’s important to research your potential partners and if possible, speak with former clients before committing to a project. You’ll find that some co-manufacturers have a limited skill set or have only been providing services for a limited amount of time. Co-manufacturers like Food Business Consulting (FBC) bring decades of real-world experience to the table and have a vast array of knowledge from product ideation all the way to commercialization. If you’re developing a new bakery product, wouldn’t it make sense to use a company like FBC that has worked with the likes of Pillsbury and Sara Lee versus using a company with little to no experience with co-manufacturing?
Whether you have decided to bring a product to market on your own or you’ve chosen to work with an established co-manufacturer, selecting the right ingredients for your new product is the next step towards a winning creation. You might be asking yourself why ingredient choices are included in the five key elements for developing your food products as you already know what ingredients make your fluffy biscuits so popular with your family and friends. What you might not realize is ingredient sourcing will:
- Dictate the quality of your product
- Define potential ingredient substitutions – critical to taste and function
- Adjust your formula as you scale to larger production runs
- Directly affect the overall development time
- Help determine what the final price will be
Given how ingredients can directly affect so many facets in product development, it is important to get this step right. Using a co-manufacturer in the ingredient selection process is often the best course of action as they have years of experience in locating the right components at the right price. They will likely also have established relationships with various ingredient sourcing companies which can end up saving valuable time and money. Steffen Weck, the CEO of Food Business Consulting gives his thoughts on using a trusted partner, “Sourcing the best in food and beverage ingredients means having a robust supplier network. Food Business Consulting is connected with suppliers who provide superior taste and consistent quality products. We also have the market insights to know the best combinations of ingredients for a finished formula that will have an impactful function and flavor”.
Sensory Testing Insights
Sensory testing is the next important factor which will help determine how successful your product development project will be. Sure, you may have a great idea for a new food product, but will that idea translate to a larger market? Sensory testing will either validate your product assumptions or be a clear signal that more development is needed. Using a variety of sensory tests ranging from taste, smell, sound, appearance and texture – a product’s viability will be put to the test and would-be consumers will provide critical feedback.
The unique tests used during a sensory phase are interesting to note. One of our favorites is the Triangle Test. This test uses small changes in ingredients or packaging to assess if there are perceptible differences between product variations. Sometimes the changes can be so small they are hardly perceptible to sensory participants. Product attributes can also be closely examined using metrics such as the level of mouth coating left after ingestion, or the viscosity and astringency determined by just how much a food mixes with your saliva to create an easily digestible food. Sensory testing during food and beverage development confirms whether or not your product is as good as you think it is. Forgoing this step during product development means you’ll be pushing your product into the market blindly without the discernible data to back up your assumptions for success. We highly recommend not skipping this step. For more information on sensory testing please see our previous blog post: https://foodbusinessconsulting.com/consumer-sensory-analysis-and-why-you-need-it-for-your-food-business/
On Target Nutritional Values
Making sure your product’s nutritional values are on point is critical. During the initial stages of product development or during reformulation, lab testing for nutritional values reduces any possible labeling mistakes as well as ensuring that regulatory compliance is achieved. Recently there has been a rise in consumer interest related to health and wellness, especially when it comes to food and drink. More products are being classified according to their nutritional composition e.g., high in fat/sugar, to better guide consumer choices while regulating the overall food environment.
The USDA has created healthful eating guidelines for adults. https://www.usda.gov/topics/food-and-nutrition/dietary-health Food and beverage manufacturers should heed these guidelines when formulating products meant to target modern health conscious consumers. With each passing year, consumers are becoming more educated on the importance of knowing what exactly is contained in the foods they eat. As this trend continues, it’s critical that food and beverage developers create easily understood and transparent nutritional values. Weck says Food Business Consulting has Nutritionists and Regulatory Specialists on staff who can, ““ensure your product meets all of the FDA’s requirements for health claims, nutrient content claims, and more”. Again, it’s important to find a team that can not only develop the product, but also verify that all nutritional claims are accurate and reflective of the brand.
The final key element that should be addressed for proper food and beverage development is to make sure your product has the correct and appropriate certifications and that those certifications are clearly defined for the consumer. With 64% of consumers reporting they choose to switch or avoid brands based on where those brands stand on societal issues such as being organic, sustainable or cruelty-free, obtaining proper certifications for your product is important. Consumer desire for transparency is pushing the movement for increased product certifications. “Today consumers are very interested in understanding what’s in their food and beverages and understanding the relationship between the foods they eat and the impact that food has on the world around them,” says Weck. “Here at FBC we work with third-party certifiers like the Whole Grain Council, Gluten Free Certifying Body, QAI, Fair Trade and many more, our facility is also FDA approved and PCQI certified.” Third-party certifications surrounding food production and sourcing are becoming more important than ever. Using certifications to convey key product metrics and standards is a valuable tool, but it does require an investment of time and resources.
Time to Take Action
If you are considering bringing a new product to market or reformulating an existing product, it will be important that each of these five key elements for developing your food products are closely examined and adhered to. To skip or skimp on any of these critical steps can lead to headaches later on. One of the key factors you should take away from this article is hiring a co-manufacturer with great connections and proven industry experience will greatly influence the ultimate success of your product. Co-manufactures bring a wealth of knowledge to the table and they’ll be able to assist with all the elements we’ve mentioned. If you’re interested in connecting with one of the most experienced co-manufacturers in the industry, please reach out to Food Business Consulting here. Our highly capable team is always on the lookout for new and exciting projects and can help you with each of the five key elements for developing your food products.