Preparing for Your Food Product Development Consultation

Whether you’re scaling an established product line or creating something entirely new from scratch, your food product development consultation will set the tone for the rest of the collaboration. It pays to be prepared – this guide will help you gather the materials and information that your development company will surely request.

Understanding Food Product Development

If this is your first time working with a product development firm, it helps to familiarize yourself with the services typically offered. Some firms keep things relatively basic – going no further than typical consulting – and others will have full scale laboratories that can analyze your product from top to bottom completely in-house.

Full service firms even have marketing experts on staff to direct everything from market research to launch, and development companies often have close connections with graphic designers and packaging agencies as well. Scour every development company website you can find so that you’ll know what the development company can likely handle and what you’ll have to take to a third-party resource.

What You Will Need

A strong description of your goals, current capabilities, and long-term projections are necessary. Your product development firm needs to know which resources you have at your disposal and how you plan to scale your product in the future.

Goals are important, but your recipe will take center stage. Your recipe should detail a list of ingredients by weight, the quality standards you use to choose ingredients, whether your ingredients are wet or dry, and the brands or formulations that you prefer. A detailed explanation of your current production process is also important: how long you marinade certain ingredients, whether you stir gently or vigorously, cooking and cooling times, etc.

The food product development company will also want a sample of your recipe as you make it.

Other non-recipe related requirements will include a workable budget and projections for scaling needs. You will also need to have a good idea of how you will approach production now and in the future – whether you use a co-packer, shared kitchen, or your own commercial prep space. These will all affect the way the development firm will approach your new commercially-viable product.

Before talking to any development firm, you’ll want to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The firm itself often provides this agreement – a firm that starts asking questions without an agreement should raise red flags. Stories of stolen recipes are rare, but surprisingly there is a market for such things.

Don’t worry about having every single piece of information documented and filed. The entire job of a food development company is to make the process easier for you, whether you are a brand new startup or an experienced culinary genius. Just get out there, keep an open mind, and let your initial consultation serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for the lengthy development process.

Understanding The Role Of Packaging In The Food Industry

For businesses involved in the manufacturing and retail of food products, the packaging is more than just a pretty container to attract the attention of buyers. It is a vital part of the product and as such, it could make or break any product launch. Unfortunately, this fact is lost on many retailers and manufacturers. The result: domestic food and beverage recalls have tripled since 1999. That is a staggering fact that should make any food-related business think more of their product’s packaging.

It is not a secret that the packaging of food and beverage greatly influences the experience of consumers with your product. For instance, does it take plenty of struggling for the consumer just to get to the product? One might think that it could be a minor hassle for consumers but this little inconvenience could turn them off from your product. It is therefore important that you understand the role of packaging in the food industry.

First of all, it’s most important job is to protect the product. You want your product to reach your clientele in one piece. This means that the container should stand the common stresses the package is subjected to during handling and transport of the products from the point of production to retail shelves.

Aside from protecting the product, it is important that food containers be safe. This means that it should be designed to avoid product recalls due to contamination and other health hazards. The materials used for the container should therefore be safe. Rigorous testing should be done to make sure that it would not contaminate or jeopardize the safety of the products for human consumption.

Another thing that a product container should achieve is to keep products fresh. Some food products are meant to be consumed in their freshest state. The package should keep products’ appearance in the best possible way. The quality of the food product should also be maintained.

The fourth role is for branding purposes. The packaging should be designed with a concrete plan behind it. This means that you should have clear identity for your brand that you want to project. Would you go for convenience? What about appeal? The things is, no matter what you choose, you have to make sure that the packaging should be true to all its other roles.

The food industry is a competitive one especially today when products meant to be consumed on the go are becoming very popular and any business should make it a priority to maximize the branding potential of product packaging.

9 Deceiving Facts About the Food Industry

Eating healthy is always a good thing but don’t be fooled by food companies that use marketing or loopholes to trick you into thinking something is healthy when it actually isn’t. Before the 1950’s the average consumer wasn’t much concerned about the nutrition of their food. However, in the 1960’s companies started to notice consumers taking notice of what they eat. Let’s visit the top 9 Deceiving Facts the food industry doesn’t want you to know.

9. Sugar Free Products

It’s easy to blame sugar as the cause for the rapid increase in the countries obesity problem. However, the truth is we need sugar in moderation as part of a balanced diet. The biggest trick the food industry uses to say a product is sugar free has to do with chemicals. Sugar free sweeteners are some of the most toxic things we can consume and have been linked in an array of troubling health conditions. Look for products that use natural, unprocessed sugars like maple syrup or honey and avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

8. Trans Fats

The US FDA’s guidelines state that any food product with an amount of fat under 0.5g per serving can be listed as 0g on the packaging. If you take a look at a lot of frozen and prepackaged foods you’ll see they print “0g Trans Fat” in bold on the front of their products. Simply look at the nutrition panel to see the ingredients to get the bigger picture. If they list any type of hydrogenated oil you can be sure this product will fail lab testing for 0% trans fat.

7. Serving Sizes

The easiest way for any food product to look healthier is by manipulating the serving sizes on the nutrition facts panel. If the item is something that most people would consume during one sitting logic says this is one serving. However, it’s not uncommon to find more and more companies decreasing serving sizes because they count on you not noticing. If the item says “servings per container: 3” you have to then multiple each listed nutritional fact item by 3!

6. Luxury Labeling

Would you pay more for a Mercedes than a Honda? Food companies know you would so they spend a lot of money on fancy packaging and marketing to turn that $2 can of spaghetti sauce into a $6 jar. The easiest way to ensure your money is going into a quality product is by comparing the ingredients on two similar items.

5. Peaches

Peaches easily bruise and are a favorite fruit of insects. This is why companies soak them in chemicals before shipping them to your local grocery store. It’s always a smart idea to purchase only organic produce but if you can’t make sure you wash these items aggressively before consuming them.

4. Defects

The US FDA has guidelines for unavoidable defects in food items, which they claim present no health hazards for humans. Taken straight from their handbook, canned mushrooms are allowed to contain 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams and golden raisins can contain an average of 1,250 or more insect fragments per 10 grams.

3. Aluminum Cans & Plastic Bottles

The chemical known as bisphenol A (BPA) is used to provide an anti-septic function to the food products it contains. Studies have shown BPA puts children and adolescents at greater risk of heart and kidney disease. The US FDA has since banned the chemical in food packaging but this hasn’t stopped companies whom make aluminum cans. In order to avoid BPA and other dangerous chemicals, choose glass whenever possible.

2. Ground Beef

Ground beef is made by gathering waste trimmings from multiple cuts of beef. It is then exposed to low heat so the fat can separate and finally sent through pipes to be treated with ammonia gasses. The US FDA allows beef products to be treated with ammonia to “clean” the meat from bacteria. Small batch and local beef producers follow different guidelines. Try to purchase meat locally when possible, from responsible organic farmers.

1. Bugs

The cochineal is a scale insect that produces carminic acid which is used to make food coloring. The bugs themselves are actually crushed to produce a vibrant red color used in food items most famously Starbucks Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino a few years back. Cochineals are considered safe for food consumption; however, many may be disgusted and concerned about eating a living thing.

Food Production Still Depends Too Heavily On Oil

Oil and petroleum products play a major part in every aspect of food production from synthetic fertiliser and pesticide production through processing and packaging right to final delivery in the shops.

The industry is one of the biggest users of fossil fuels and therefore is often at the mercy of fluctuations in oil and petrol prices as well as being both energy inefficient and unsustainable as reserves of oil in the world are gradually being depleted.

It is calculated that it takes more than 400 gallons of oil to feed one person for a year in the USA. Approximately a third of this goes to the manufacture of fertilisers, while another fifth is used in farm machinery. Add in the costs of the machinery that processes and packages the food and the transportation costs to the point of sale and these together explain that figure of 400 gallons per person per year.

In terms of energy conversion this food production system means that it takes three calories of energy for every single calorie of edible food produced on average. The difference when this calculation is applied to grain-fed beef is an astonishing 35 calories of energy for every one calorie of beef. Both these figures exclude the additional cost of energy input involved in food processing and transportation.

Those who advocate sustainable and organic farming point out that it is the industrial system of food production that accounts for what is argued to be such an inefficient use of energy.

The chief culprit, they say, is the amount of energy that goes into producing artificial fertilisers and pesticides, derived from such things as nitrogen or natural gas. It is calculated that as much as 40% of the energy that goes into the food production system goes into this part of the process.

It is also argued that the need for these products is precisely because of the structure of the food production system, both meat and vegetables, which have become increasingly produced in concentrated and specific areas of many countries.

Over time, such concentrated activity has depleted the nutrition of the soil, damaged ecosystems and polluted water supplies. There have also been increasing concerns about the long-term effects on human health of the residues of such chemicals in food.

Systems such as integrated pest management, organic farming and the use of more natural, low-chemical agricultural products are part of moving to more sustainable farming methods.

Using natural sources for biopesticides, yield enhancers and biofungicides can protect the land and crops and increase crop yields while leaving little or no residue in the food produced and this is the focus of the research and products being developed by biopesticides developers.

Such low-chem agricultural products are gradually replacing the older generation of artificial fertilisers and pesticides which are being withdrawn or phased out by many governments around the world. However, the process of getting this new, healthier generation of products tested, registered and licensed is both costly and lengthy. The process has also not so far been harmonised across the world and the need to do so is becoming increasingly urgent.

Other measures to reduce the energy inefficiency in food production include buying locally and organically produced food as well as reducing the amount of packaging used. While plainly consumers can take action about what they buy for themselves, they can also pressure the bigger food store chains to source more locally as well as to cut back on packaging.

Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers