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Often a new client will come to me after spending years developing their product (usually starting in their own kitchen) with considerable time spent, much trial and more error involved in upscaling.

Trying to get a product safe and compliant plus at a price point that is acceptable to the customer can be a bigger hurdle than they expect when starting out. The most common comment is the cost of those mistakes and often that they didn’t realise there was help do get it right the first time.

So, I decided to ask long time colleague and food technologist, Janette (Janette McDonald Consulting) about how she minimises the risks and costs of developing new products. Whilst each project has its own unique requirements Janette’s extensive experience assisting producers and manufacturers with there food technology and safety has surely built a fantastic source of knowledge. She has kindly shared some interesting insights into an industry that can be quite overwhelming to a new player in the industry. Enjoy… 

Me: What is the biggest challenge for food enterprises in getting a product to market?
Janette: Really it is taking the product from a small concern, or selling at the local markets, to scaling up to commercial production – getting to the next level. That is where the risk increases, as it requires more time and money to support the process and the product in the market once launched. Unless you are lucky enough to find an investor on the Shark Tank, like my client Just Jerky from Western Australia achieved a few months ago.

Me: How do you help them overcome this issue of upscaling?
Janette: In partnership with the client I offer the following 2 options:

  1. Troubleshooting a particular technical issue. I offer a fee for service basis 1 on 1 session where I give them advice to get over the hurdle.
  2. A staged product development project. We begin with the brief and proposal then each stage outcomes inform the next stage. We build the clients knowledge of the product with all issues around upscaling to give them confidence to discuss their needs with their contract manufacturer.

Me: In the food technology industry what is the latest trend?
Janette: Technical trends are about maintaining ‘freshness with minimal processing’. The industry is being expected to create products with a longer shelf life but with less processing to maintain flavour and texture quality. This leads to ‘clean’ labels, where ingredient lists are expected to include ingredients that a consumer might find in their pantry or hear about on a cooking show. So reducing or eliminating preservatives, using natural flavours and colours and native starches that haven’t been chemically modified are on trend. Due to the explosion in cooking shows there has been a corresponding expansion in ingredients including native Australian flavours. The problem is that there are often supply issues with upscaling, and safety issues depending on the country of origin.

Me: A lot of products I design packaging for claim ‘all natural’, what are the issues for these products?
Janette: Primarily shelf life is the major factor: we are striving for the best quality and at the same time the longest shelf life and this is a very challenging task. The second one is quality. Natural colours have been trending for some time but your limited in ythe colour palette and what is legally permitted; in addition they tend not to have the shelf life of other nature identical compounded colours. It’s about getting a regular supply. Commercial availability can be an issue with minimally processed ingredients.

Me: What are your best 3 tips for new manufacturers interested in upscaling?
Janette:

  1. Seek expert advice from a Food Technologist: in the end it saves you time and money.
  2. Know your price point and who your competitors are
  3. Do some research on category trends and investigate ways to be innovative.

Me: Can you tell us about any innovations in food and drinks industry?
Janette: Ingredient research is focussing on isolating bioactives from plants to develop new natural preservatives (antioxidants), and natural colours for foods with perceived and real health benefits. For example: improved rosemary extract, and stabilised paprika and turmeric. Extraction of amino acids from dairy proteins are also allowing development of products for the sports industry which then become mainstream. In food processing, High Pressure Processing (HPP) is being used with avocado and fruit juices to produce products with superior flavour and appearance and nutrition as well as extended shelf life. A dairy in NSW is now producing HPP bottled milk for market which doesn’t undergo the traditional pasteurisation step. It will be interesting to see if his niche product will develop market share. It will depend on the balance the business achieves between the product benefits and the price point, compared with the larger players in this category.

Janette McDonald Consulting services uses a disciplined approach to accelerate product development and mitigate the risk of launching a product that does not meet consumer expectations for quality or price, by combining Best Practice Product Development and a strategic management tool called Stage GateTM.

If you are interested in upscaling and need a quote to develop cost formulations, assisting with production scale up, providing draft HACCP plans or advice for your structural packaging, shelf life and labelling then contact Janette at jmcdonald@janettemcdonaldconsulting.com.au or call 0401 734 256.

If you liked this article you may also be interested in Josh Gadischke’s story about upscaling his totally Australian made edible oils business, building Proteco Oils.

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