What the consumer wants dictates trends in new product development. Attendees of Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminar-EAST heard about healthy ingredients for different consumer groups, including Baby Boomers; the supplier and food developer relationship; as well as effective new product development methods.

Demographics Determine Healthy Ingredients

Popular nutritional ingredients with health applications typically involve bone health, heart health, sustained energy, antioxidants, recovery, beauty within, cognitive ability and digestive health (including lactose intolerance). A seminar given by Rodger Jonas, national business development manager, P.L. Thomas Inc., discussed various applications and issues with popular healthy ingredients.

A natural colorant, lycopene concentrate, is an antioxidant-rich carotenoid found in tomatoes. This ingredient is coming in handy to manufacturers because of increased scrutiny on labeling of insect-derived red color additives (such as carmine or cochineal extract). Lycopene extract has strong clinical support and a qualified health claim against prostate cancer. There is also evidence of its ability to contribute to reduced blood pressure.

 Oral probiotics are big today, but the problem with traditional probiotics is that cells do not survive high heat and pressure. Cells die quickly on the shelf, and cannot survive stomach acids, bile or enzymes in the gut. One probiotic that can survive to colonize the gut is Bacillus coagulans. This is a gram-positive, spore-forming rod that is 0.9µ x 3.0-5.0µ in size (aerobic to microaerophilic). Once activated, it germinates and proliferates throughout the intestine, preventing the growth of numerous bacterial and fungal pathogens. Strains of Bacillus coagulans, in particular, are significantly superior to other probiotics. Only 0.1% of the bacteria in the leading brand of refrigerated yogurt-based probiotic survive the gastric environment. In contrast, up to 78% of Bacillus coagulans survive to colonize the gut. This has been proven through extreme processing conditions, such as in boiling water and steeping for four minutes in tea. It has also survived HTST at 177°F for 22 seconds, baking at 350°F for 20 minutes, extrusion and pelleting, and freezing.

Natural vitamin K2, when consumed at 45µg per day, has contributed to a 50% reduction in arterial calcification, 50% reduction in cardiovascular death, and 25% reduction of all-cause mortality, as compared to low intake of dietary K2. Studies show that kids need extra vitamin K. Young bones are highly active and osteocalcin levels are 8-10 times higher when compared to adults, thus the vitamin K requirement is higher.

Co-enzyme Q-10 is an antioxidant rich, fat-soluble substance vital to the production of energy. It is said to jump-start cellular energy production. COQ10 is 100% natural when processed from yeast. It is a flavorless, odorless crystalline powder available in nano-concentrate form for color stability and provides the highest level of antioxidants in lipid form. There is clinical support for COQ10 against heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, aging, HIV, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and periodontal disease.

And last, but not least, a new form of grape seed extract is an effective anti-hypertensive in patients with pre-hypertension and may prevent the development of frank hypertension. (See chart “Change in Blood Pressure.”)
 “Ingredient Applications Segmented by Age Demographics,” Rodger Jonas, national business development manager, P.L. Thomas Inc., rodger@plthomas.com, www.plthomas.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Baby Boomers and Trends

A trend is something that becomes popular within mainstream society over a long period of time. It is not a fad that can come and go quickly. Examples are “farm-friendly” and “healthy.” Trend spotting is complex, because the food industry is multi-faceted, starting with the target market.

The Baby Boomer generation is made up of 70 million plus people, or one quarter of the population. They have evolved into knowledgeable consumers with diverse tastes and influences on purchasing decisions. One thing that makes this group unique is its variety, making it impossible to quantify with standard demographic statistics. But by going beyond statistics and digging deeper to get a valid picture, one can begin to understand the generation’s sociological makeup, including diets, culinary preferences and social conscience, said Natasha Bangel, food science analyst, and Howard Keith Lucas, lead project analyst, Nerac Inc.

The Baby Boomer influence is leaning toward “good-for-you” foods such as all-natural, organic, vegetarian, nutraceuticals, probiotics, superfoods and environmentally friendly.

Interest groups, such as the American Heart Association, have their own agenda--from obesity to carcinogens to the environment. They support research and develop publicity programs in their areas of interest, which leads to pressure on lawmakers and the food industry. A recent example is the FDA’s hearing on salt, stemming from a petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest that is focused on reducing salt levels in processed foods. It is important to be constantly aware of how certain groups can directly impact business, anywhere in the food chain--from farmer to flavorist. 

Taking a look at one of the current Baby Boomer trends, functional foods as “good-for-you” foods, the leading product categories include functional breakfast cereals and probiotic yogurts; beverages consisting of yogurt drinks, soy-based beverages, fruit juices and teas; cholesterol-lowering margarines; and inherently functional foods like cereal bars, whole-grain breads and oatmeal.

Functional food sales in the U.S. hit $25 billion in 2006 and are projected to reach $39 billion by 2011. The functional ingredients with the largest demand are glucosamine, probiotics, sterol esters, whey protein, omega-3 fatty acids and CoQ10.

Many industry insiders believe that expansion in the functional foods market may lose steam over the next several years (compared to previous growth levels) and result in a rate similar to that of traditional food products. During this period, it is suggested that the markets for some functional food categories may mature, as buying for these types of products tapers off.
 “Food Industry Trend Spotting: The Baby Boom Effect,” Natasha Bangel, food science analyst, nbangel@nerac.com, and Howard Keith Lucas, lead project analyst, hlucas@nerac.com, Nerac Inc., www.nerac.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Suppliers Help with Product Development

Suppliers can furnish product developers with effective resources in the development of successful products. Identifying winning relationships with suppliers is the objective, and the right venture can save a company the classic assets of time, money and human resources, said Allan D. Samson, principal, ESCA Enterprises.

Suppliers can provide products, services or both. Products provided may include ingredients, components, equipment and packaging materials. Service providers may offer products and processes, nutrition information, technical services, marketing and sales, market research, sensory analysis, analytical services and engineering. Suppliers of both products and services may offer co-packing, co-manufacturing, inventors or engagers. Interactions with suppliers can occur both directly or indirectly (through a third party).

Direct interactions with suppliers may include corporate interactions with R&D, technical services, procurement, operations, marketing or corporate management. Indirect or third party interactions involve consultants communicating with suppliers or co-packers; market research to co-packer; consultant to market research to co-packer; or a corporate functional team.

The questions involved in the supplier relationship may include: How many suppliers are involved? What are their strengths? How are they involved, internally or externally? Are they the right supplier for the job? What is the competitive advantage? Is there exclusivity, and what is the risk? Service suppliers also bring up the issues of integrity and trust, service and support, backup and follow-up, skill set, complement versus compete, objectivity, confidentiality and ownership. Relationships with suppliers of products and services such as co-packing and co-manufacturing bring up the importance of confidentiality, ownership of the formula or process, contract structure, pricing structure, the “exit” clause and, “Whose idea is it, anyway?”

Relationship killers can come from either the company or the supplier. On the part of the company, problems can involve contract bidding, bait-and-switch, incorrect volume predictions, ingredient substitution, disregard for resources, incomplete or incorrect information and cost saving versus product integrity. Supplier relationship killers can come from bait-and-switch, formula modification, formula ownership, price or cost increases, service versus size of the business, idea and management presentation, primary versus secondary relationship and confidentiality issues.

In building relationships with suppliers, good building blocks to consider and focus on are to think long-term, win together, adhere to the guidelines, know when to break the rules or not, “cross-pollinate” between suppliers and deliver results.
 “A Winning Relationship in Product Development,” Allan D. Samson, Ph.D., MBA, principal, ESCA Enterprises, esca@mindspring.com, www.escaenterprises.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

New Products: Explore, Innovate, Grow

Innovation is a vital factor that is setting companies apart among the competition, more so than ever before. The basic drivers of innovation in the food industry today include increasing consumer knowledge of nutrition and health factors related to foods and slow but steady movement towards “all-natural,” “organic” and “local” food, spurred in part by environmental awareness.

Advancement in technology and research is making the impossible possible. For example, not too long ago, the options were as simple as butter or margarine. Now there are endless varieties of flavored, low-calorie, dairy, non-dairy and heart-healthy table spreads.

Due to competition and product duplication, manufacturers are being forced to upgrade and renew existing product lines every three to five years, as opposed to every 10-15 years a few decades ago. Also, the integrating world economy is causing global competition like never before, increasing the significance of innovation and new product development, said Asim Syed, director of product development, Butterball Farms Inc.

There are three basic building blocks for a successful and effective new product system. These are, in the order of significance: 1. New product strategy; 2. New product process; and 3. New product resources.

New product strategy defines the market space and boundaries (technology arenas, product categories, market segments, percent of sales from new products, etc). It must reflect a company’s vision, mission, goals and objectives. An example of a focused new product strategy would be to “provide unique portion-control solutions to the foodservice and industrial customers, in the areas of butter, margarine and specialty food products. Also, to generate X million dollar sales through new products by the end of 2010. All new products must comply with the corporate Environmental Sustainability policy.”

In order to implement the new product strategy, there needs to be a well-defined and organized new product process. The process must be broken down into clearly defined stages and must have a “Go” or “No go” decision point after every stage. The general stages of this process include ideation, idea screening, definition of targets, feasibility, development, commercialization and post-launch monitoring.

New product resources include man, machine and methods. A challenge that all product development teams face is prioritization. One of the most commonly used and most effective methods to resolve this problem has been the score point method. (See chart “Schematic of the Project Screening Method.”)

 In a score point method, projects are screened and given points on previously determined success factors. These factors are developed with team agreement and may be specific to the type of business and company resources. Prioritization and focus provide for the goal of “do more of the best and less of the rest.”
 “New Product Development: Explore, Innovate, Grow,” Asim Syed, director of product development, Butterball Farms Inc., asim.s@butterballfarms.com, www.butterballfarms.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor