The Soul of A New Product

I moved to Chicago last May because Kraft Foods offered me a contract position to help them develop a new line of Miracle Whip Branded Dipping Sauces. It has been an exciting project to work on and fascinating to experience the inner workings of one of the largest food companies in the world. Coming from the world of Bay Area start ups—where recalls are a rite of passage and shelf life study translates to “lets see when the consumers start complaining to determine our best by date”—it has been an eye-opener to learn that companies like Kraft have such an amazing team of food scientists and in-house experts that no quality or safety stone is ever left unturned. The product is looked at from a hundred different angles before being released to the masses.

My Babies

My Babies

While I have always felt that a food scientist’s signature should be part of the product packaging design, or at least a small photo of them stamped next to the Use By date, that usually never happens. However, with the pending release of my three new dipping sauces—Sassy Sweet Tomato, Kickin’ Onion Blossom and Smokin’ Bacon Ranch—I couldn’t help mentioning—just a little bit—in passing, “hey, I worked on that.” Is that so wrong?  It’s not enough that my parents have all three sauces proudly on display on the kitchen counter, I feel like I need to speak on behalf of all food scientists who have given their blood, sweat and tears to develop a product from concept through to commercialization.  You know who you are and what you have done. The bench top samples, the marketing critiques, the pilot plant studies, the specification writing, late night production runs and shelf life studies. A lot goes into the development of a new product and we have all experienced the excitement and stress involved in this process.

But it’s all worth it when we walk down the supermarket aisles and can tell our family and friends: “I INVENTED that!” Sometimes I even tell strangers who are checking out the product, debating whether to buy it or not—“It’s a great product. Want to hear more about how it was born?” Now, I am not saying that I did everything by myself. Of course there were many other people involved in the process. The marketing team, the food safety experts, the quality control department, the packaging group, the sensory scientists and the regulatory guys who know the CFRs like the back of their hands. They all helped and were a part of the process, but I think that the food scientist feels a special bond with the product they developed—we were with it from day one and saw it evolve from a tiny idea to a supermarket staple.

So, like a writer who just published a possible bestseller, I anxiously waited for the online blogger reviews of my product. I was thrilled to find an online review by the food blogger Tired Dad Dave of 2 Wired 2 Tired, who described it as “full of flavor” and he can’t wait to create a “recipe or two.” Thanks Tired Dad Dave!!

I know all of my developer friends out there have created something they are proud of in 2012.  Share below in the comments section and let us know!

About rachel zemser