launching a new product is an accomplishment that has its rewards monetarily and personally.
When one is a Food Technologist by profession, successfully developing and launching a new product is an accomplishment that has its rewards monetarily and personally. The process though at times can be challenging. Making it happen is not always straightforward and logical unless you are a very small sole proprietor. There are other individuals involved that will be giving needed input and as the Food Technologist, one must take all the input into account. Here are some keys to successfully developing and launching a new product.
1. Sales and Marketing-This individual or group must define the product they want developed as precisely and specifically as possible. The new product should be defined in terms of price point, product name, quality attributes (i.e., low salt, natural, organic, etc.), packaging and net weight to name some examples. Regarding packaging, this includes the target customer (wholesale or retail), desired shelf life and label design.
2. Test Product Evaluation – This can and will occur during the development process. A large company will have a designated, trained sensory panel for just this purpose. However, for most companies this will include sales, marketing, upper management, operations or production, engineering and/or owners. The key here is the use of people in which sensory perception is a strong attribute they possess. Descriptions such as “taste bad” and “taste good” are not constructive or helpful to the product developer. Evaluations describing product characteristics such as saltiness, heat (spice), smokiness, etc. are helpful. Blind testing without group discussion is desirable. Otherwise, one person may persuade another person to give an evaluation that is not totally genuine for a variety of reasons. A very small proprietorship is at a disadvantage here. Test product evaluators often include family, friends and employees who may not be sincere in their evaluation due to concerns for the owner’s personal feelings. Thus, a small proprietor must be cognizant of this.
3. Product cost determination- The product developer will use the desired selling price that was provided by the sales and marketing group as information from which to work. Then, product costs will be determined along with desired profit margin to determine if this goal can be accomplished. Costs include not only the raw material costs but potential new equipment costs that will have to be amortized. Time studies may have to be performed or at least estimated to determine labor costs. There may be products already in production with similar processes upon which to base this. Remember, if the new product idea is clearly defined there is a price point to be achieved. Often times raw material costs may have little flexibility such as an all-beef product or a ham product. Labor costs typically allow for even less flexibility in costs. If the selling price point is not achievable due to raw material and labor costs, the developer may want to research equipment availability or design to reduce labor costs. The sales and marketing group may have a decision to make regarding the increased of the desired selling price point. There are fixed overhead costs that need to be included in the cost of the product. Keep in mind the price point determined by sales and marketing has a predetermined profit margin included.
4. Seasoning- Here the product developer needs a starting point. Obviously, seasoning levels, combinations, and concentrations will be modified during the product development process based on feedback from the taste panel. Most often, the starting point is a combination of past experience, networking with colleagues in the industry, seasoning sales people and reading labels of similar products in the marketplace.
5. Packaging and Labeling- This should be determined by the sales and marketing group. Input to be provided to the Food Technologist includes product appearance, shelf life and type of product label. Regarding packaging methods, using existing equipment already in use is the most desirable due to obvious costs implications. However, the issue is determining if existing equipment can be used to produce the desired finished product specifications at the targeted selling point (or cost).
6. Production Test Run-It is always wise to do a small production run of the new product. Small for this discussion is defined as the minimum capacity of product for which the equipment was designed to adequately process. If it is existing equipment, this is already known at the plant level. If it is newly purchased or designed equipment, then the technologist needs that input from the equipment manufacturer. The finished product should be held pending evaluation and approval by the taste panel.
7. Product Launch-During the first production run the technologist needs to follow every process step. For a successful launch nothing should be assumed or left to chance. Like in the Production Test Run, finished product should be evaluated for acceptance prior to product shipment.