Editor’s Note: Although there may be a pandemic-related slowdown, there’s no stopping new product development activity. To better help its readers with initial new product evaluation and development Prepared Foods asked Nancy Jo Seaton, owner and president of Seaton Food Consultants, to create a thought leadership series. Seaton has more than 30 years of food industry experience and most recently led global product evaluation for the Subway restaurants. She also has worked for such global food brands as Chiquita, Unilever and ConAgra.

A life spent in food gives Seaton a unique perspective on consistent product quality. Her many diverse roles from sales to manufacturing to foodservice gave her the opportunity to pioneer an innovative and customized approach to product evaluation. Combining organoleptic assessment with Good Lab Practices she has successfully executed this evaluation system for many years.
This is the second installment in an ongoing series.
View the first installment.

Whether you are manufacturing your product yourself or working with a third party, you must define all of the attributes that are important to making the product uniquely yours. 

It’s not unusual for a product to change from the time of manufacture to the time a consumer purchases it. Considering shipping and distribution alone—your final consumer may not see your product for a month after its manufacture.
Understanding these differences and communicating them accurately will help your manufacturing partners deliver the final item properly and consistently over time.

This means that you need to have two distinct descriptions of the product to ensure that what the factory is manufacturing becomes what your retailer is putting on their shelves and what the consumer is ultimately buying.  

Your challenge was to put pen to paper and really define what makes your product uniquely yours.  If you’ve not found the pen yet, let me at least give you the paper. Use this form as a guide as to what to identify about your product so that you can take the next critical step, articulating your attributes to your manufacturer.

Your customer, the retailer, distributor, or final buyer will want a copy of your internal document detailing all of your finished product attributes (what they are going to sell to the consumer).  This document should include many basics, but what we often overlook are the numerous details around the finished product that clearly defines its quality, what it truly is and how it tastes.

Once you’ve completed your version of the worksheet, use it as a guide to help you define and articulate the most accurate description of your item for your manufacturing team.  Sharing this information should be done with samples. Don’t just talk through it—but taste your way through each attribute. 

The more people that you can expose to what you want to achieve on the manufacturing floor the more “product experts” you create.  The bigger that team is, the more likely you are to achieve a consistent high-quality outcome. 

This is the perfect time to visit the plant and understand what is different from the day of manufacture to “the day of opening” — when the consumer is about to enjoy it.  Working closely with the manufacturer, you need to understand clearly what (if anything) is different between the finished product and the “freshly made” product. 

Another worksheet might be in order so that you have two distinct expectations for the manufacturer to work towards — what the product is on “day one” and what it should become by the time it reaches the consumer.

If they are the same thing, great, but if not, be clear as to what you want from freshly made product so that everyone involved in the process is clear on the definition of your quality standards.

NEXT UP - Communicating Your Specification to Ensure Quality, The Importance of Benchmarks

Learn more about Seaton Food Consultants.