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.

Middle East Unrest Exposes Food Production’s Vulnerability to Oil

Oil prices have climbed to almost the heights of two years ago as a result of the popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East and there is no telling whether they will rise further or how long they will stay that way.

Meanwhile, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that food prices had risen in February 2011 above their previous peak in 2008 and warned that they could rise even further as the unrest continues or spreads further.

All this emphasises the vulnerability of food production because of its dependence on oil and petroleum products for much of the process, starting from the production of synthetic fertiliser and continuing through industrial-style farming to the transport and processing of produce before it reaches the shops.

The connection between oil and food production and the effect of oil prices on food prices has been well rehearsed, and it is ironic that these democracy movements should have first emerged in protest at high food prices, among other things, in an area that is a major oil producer.

But the most interesting piece of recent news is an article in the China Post, Singapore, on March 7 2011. The piece, reporting on a workshop among scientists, revealed that unrestrained manufacture of what it called “cheap” pesticides and their overuse was causing problems throughout Asia’s rice paddy fields, which it said was destroying the surrounding ecosystems and actually allowing pests to thrive and multiply.

It reported that the problem was that poorly-trained farmers who were under pressure to raise crop yields were relying too much on these chemical pesticides. According to one of the participating scientists, George Lukacs, of Australia, large outbreaks of pests, called “pest storms” have been reported in China as a result.

All this suggests that the alleged benefits of cheap oil-dependent pesticides are far outweighed by the consequences of their over-use and it all reinforces the urgent need to give farmers across the world access to equally cheap but more environmentally friendly agricultural products, particularly pesticides, in order to reduce the dependence on synthetic pesticides and the reliance of oil in the food production process.

Equally important is the need for farmers to have widespread access to proper training in their use.

Research into alternatives to the older generation of synthetic, chemical-based pesticides has produced many safer, low-chemical products from the biopesticides developers. They include biopesticides, biofungicides and yield enhancers that harness use natural ingredients to which local pests and plant diseases are vulnerable.

They include crop solutions to protect soy beans, corn and wheat as well as a variety of vegetables including protection from bacterial diseases in tomatoes and peppers, to provide protection from soil diseases in potatoes and biofungicides to protect leafy vegetables from fungal diseases by harnessing the powerful biochemistry of Bacillus subtilis, a bacterial microorganism that is commonly found in the environment.

These low-chem agricultural products also leave little or no residue in the foods produced and in the land, so that damage to the surrounding ecosystem is minimised. They make it possible for farmers to increase their crop yields by cutting down the losses from diseases without depleting the land’s goodness.

It is possible that the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East and consequent uncertainty about oil supplies will give governments across the world the incentive to accelerate their processes of getting alternative, natural and more environmentally friendly, less oil-dependent agricultural products through the registration and licensing processes more quickly and available to farmers more cheaply.

It may be hoped also that the result will be healthier, more natural and affordable food for all consumers around the world and better protection for the environment on which we all depend.

Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers

Half the Food Produced Globally Is – Wasted?

One year ago, a report was released by the United Nations Environment Program that over half of the food produced globally is lost, wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain. This is a staggering fact that is substantiated by data from countries all around the world. It seems the food crisis that we are currently facing, blamed largely on decreasing yields due to climate change, depleted soil, lack of adequate water, and so on, is more a crisis of management than production. In fact, there is strong evidence, according to UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, that the world could feed it’s entire population, right now, by simply becoming more efficient and reducing the horrific waste that is endemic to the food production industry.

Some figures:

• Up to 25% of all fresh fruits and vegetables in the US is lost between field and table.
• In Australia, food waste makes up half of that country’s landfill.
• In the United Kingdom 30% of all food purchased every year is not eaten.
• Losses in the field between planting and harvesting are around 40% of the potential harvest in developing countries due to pests and pathogens.
• In Africa, 30% of landed fish is lost through discards and spoilage.
• Approximately 30 million metric tons of fish are discarded at sea every year.
• India looses up to 50% of it’s fresh food because of inadequate storage and distribution.
• In South East Asia 37% of rice is lost between field and table. In China, the figure is up to 45%, in Vietnam, it’s estimated to be 80%!

Another factor that accentuates the waste factor in America and Great Britain is the draconian penalties on food suppliers for failing to deliver agreed upon quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year. To avoid these crippling penalties, farmers are required to produce a much larger crop than can actually be sold or processed as a form of insurance against poor weather or other factors that might reduce their yield. In some instances, up to 30% of a crop is left to rot. Another 30% of that crop never reaches the supermarket because it is ‘sub standard’ or substantially trimmed for packaging purposes. Of the final produce that reaches our supermarkets, up to 50% is then thrown away.

While it is impossible to calculate the wastage of food from restaurants and all other places where food is served, the final figures of how much food is consumed, compared to how much is produced, must be an astonishingly small percentage. This system of putting incredible pressure on our food producers only so that at least half of what is produced can be thrown away, is clearly unsustainable.

This same study indicates that up to 25% of the world’s current food production capacity may be lost due to “environmental breakdowns” by 2050. Already, cereal yields have stagnated worldwide and fish landings are steadily declining. As the world’s population presses towards 9.5 billion by the year 2050 the demand on the world’s limited resources will reach a breaking point. We cannot ‘produce’ our way out of the next crisis, we must ‘conserve’ our way out.

What can you do?

1. Plan more carefully the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that your family will consume on a weekly basis and limit your purchases to that amount.
2. When food is on the verge of going bad, cook it and freeze it. This works well with excess veggies that can be made into a soup and frozen, or apples which can be made into applesauce and kept longer.

3. Encourage your family to take smaller portions and go back for more if still hungry rather than filling your plate and throwing half away.
4. Learn to be creative with leftovers. Most meals can be recycled easily the next day into another meal or added to a soup or packed for lunches.
5. Feed your pet table scraps. In most cases, your animal will be healthier and that last piece of something that is too small to save will not be wasted.
6. If you shop at a store with large packs of produce or meat, consider shopping with a friend so you can divide the packages and not have excess food in your frige.
7. At restaurants, bring a Tupperware to take home leftovers or opt to share a meal if the servings are particularly large, or simply eat an appetizer and soup or desert.
8. If you find you’ve made more than your family can eat of something, bring the leftovers in to your office to share. Maybe have a potluck Thursday when leftovers can be pooled for a fun meal.
9. Shop at your local farmers market to help small scale farmers and get your produce days after harvest instead of weeks at the supermarket.

How To Buy Food Products Online

Did you know that you can buy food products online? While it’s easy to do it, you need to be very cautious when making the purchase. To help you out here are some of the things that you should do:

Know your Rights

You need to know your rights as a customer. One of your rights is to have all the information that you need about the product that you are buying. Before you make the purchase, you should be able to see the date of manufacture of the product. You should also be able to see the ingredients used in making the food product.

It’s also your right to have a cooling-off period. In most of the cases the period is seven working days. During this time you can cancel your order any time unless you have ordered a perishable product. Before you make the purchase you should ensure that the site you want to buy from gives you the cooling-off period.

What to Accept and Reject

After you have placed your order the company will pack your product and send it to you within the agreed time. When you receive the product you shouldn’t accept it unless it’s what you ordered. As rule of thumb you shouldn’t accept the product if:

  • It’s dented, swollen or the can is leaking
  • Is damaged or in an imperfect packaging
  • Is soiled or moldy
  • You have doubts about its quality

If you don’t like the product that is sent to you, you should resend it to the company and write to the company explaining the reasons why you have rejected it.

You should wait for the company to respond to your message and send you the right product. If you the company doesn’t respond to your message in time and doesn’t send you the product that you are looking for you should launch a complain. When filing the complaint you should include the date of order, what you had ordered, amount paid, reference number, reason for complaint and any other relevant information.

If you aren’t satisfied with the response that you get from the company you should contact the local authority where the company is based.

Conclusion

This is what you need to know about buying food products online. To have an easy time and buy the right product, you should do your research and only work with the reputable companies dealing with the product that you are interested in.