The possibilities are endless. Your marketing team just came up with the greatest product idea ever (no really, this one will be different), a tried and true ingredient has become too expensive to use, another one just got banned in California – all scenarios that require R&D teams to swing into action and create or modify product recipes. An essential part of the new product development process, in most cases, is the creation of a physical bench product. Often, there will be many iterations of bench product, and for good reasons. From recipe and process validation to raw material assessment and cost analysis, going right through to final compliance, labeling and nutritional confirmation, creating physical product is an indispensable part of R&D.
It can also be, in technical terms, a huge pain in the backside. Time consuming, expensive, and resource intensive, creating and analyzing bench product can be a significant drag on time to market. It typically can’t be skipped, but teams that have been through the process know that slowdowns and complexity can happen at multiple stages. See if any of the following slowdowns sound familiar.
Ingredient sourcing and availability:
In recent years, simply finding well-established ingredients hasn’t always been easy, and the issues are compounded when a new ingredient enters the mix (pun intended). If the required material isn’t readily available from an existing, trusted suppliers, research teams often fall back to Google, engaging in what can be a lengthy song and dance to find potential suppliers, obtain product specs, establish supplier capabilities and obtain samples, all of which can sit upstream from battles yet to come on pricing, order priority and MOQ.
The average home chef can be forgiven for not understanding that food manufacture doesn’t always work like cooking at home. Grandma’s annotation in the margins of the cookbook to double the recipe when expecting company isn’t necessarily a sound analog for scaling from lab quantities to industrial production. Careful calculation and modeling can help identify and mitigate potential issues, particularly when ingredient specifications (and the conformance of real-world products to same) are well understood, but even for teams that are well past the trial-and-error stage, theories need to be tested.
Equipment and process limitations:
The song says “Love the One you’re With,” but the equipment you’re with in the lab environment may not quite match the temperature control or mixing efficiency of the equipment on your production line. Experienced R&D professionals know the heartbreak of seeing a recipe that performed flawlessly in the lab fail to translate into a viable production product at scale, particularly when faced with the realities of equipment maintenance and process controls. The heartbreak is made worse when the team has had to wait or even compete for production line time, working within tight constraints to avoid impacting production throughput.
Nutritional and ingredient declarations:
New formulations and ingredients will inevitably have the potential to impact nutritional labeling, an area that continues to evolve in many jurisdictions. The question is around how those nutritional outcomes are going to be validated. In environments where physical product has to play a big role in testing out the nutritional performance of new material, this too can be a significant drag on development times. Here again, robust capabilities around nutritional calculation can help provide early validation for ingredients and recipe variants, provided that those capabilities fit well into the overall development process.
When teams get stuck running through multiple iterations of physical product, it’s easy to wind up in a place where validating a recipe takes far longer and costs much more than leadership (and R&D team members themselves) would want. Having the right tools in place to maximize experimentation and iterate quickly on formulas pre-bench can be a game changer, letting teams break free of the constraints imposed by the need to continually iterate in physical product. TraceGains brings three important capabilities to the table for teams facing the challenges described above (and quite a few more besides).
TraceGains Formula Management provides rapid iteration tools that let teams evaluate new materials and new ideas quickly. Formula Management’s robust but flexible calculation tools let you get technical with recipe variants, even if your process requires highly complex expressions and very specific orders of operation that other tools struggle with. And of course, industry specific calculations like baker’s percentage are there when needed. Meanwhile, integrated nutritional calculation lets you stay on top of the nutritional impacts of recipe changes, while full support for sub-formulas, CoMan collaboration and location-based variants let you get as weird as you need to with your complex manufacturing value chain.
TraceGains Specification Management is a fully integrated platform for both ingredient and finished goods specifications, tying directly with Formula Management to ensure that product recipes and material specs stay in sync. It systematizes specification version control with full capabilities for process workflows, while also enabling secure, online collaboration with suppliers and manufacturers.
TraceGains Gather®, the industry’s most powerful Networked Ingredients Marketplace, is the state of the art for R&D sourcing. Research over 500,000 ingredients from more than 70,000 supplier locations around the world, with one-click access to millions of documents including technical ingredient specifications. Connect with suppliers directly on the network ecosystem at the center of the global Food and Beverage industry, and break free of the cumbersome paperchase that’s slowed you down for too long.
R&D teams need to be thorough, but increasingly, they also need to move fast. To find the perfect balance of speed and accuracy, request a demo today.