So, you’ve been in negotiations with wholesale buyers for months. They say they love your products, but you can’t get them to place that first order and start carrying your line. You know that if they took a chance on you, your products would fly off the shelves, but you don’t know how to get them to take that leap…

It’s time for Retail Ready, an online course specifically designed to help amazing producers land and grow amazing wholesale accounts.

Enrollment is now open! Check out the Details here: www.alliball.com/retail-ready-course-waitlist

Retail Ready will run again from August 28 to Sept. 22, 2017.

Get A $100 dollar discount by using the code SCIENCE17 at checkout! 

For producers looking to understand the behind the scenes of wholesale, gain clarity on what a Buyer thinks through as they consider new product lines for their shelves, finally decide if they’re ready for adding a broker or distributor, and confidently outline their steps for growth in 2017, Retail Ready is here for you.

After completing Retail Ready, you will:

  • Finally have a business plan that came together easily, without blood, sweat and tears, and guides you in decision making for your business
  • Have a clear game plan on how to increase your wholesale accounts- outlining what to focus on first, and how to make the right choices the first time around
  • Have Buyers knocking on your door, asking to bring in your product line
  • Get wholesale accounts to say “Yes!” to carrying your products after the very first interaction- no more back and forth for weeks, wondering when they’ll bring in your brand
  • Understand what makes killer marketing material- shelf talkers, promotional material and a sell sheet- and be proud when you see them on the shelf
  • Articulate and leverage what makes your product stand out on the shelf & finally gain understanding on who is actually buying your product… plus how to use that information to gain more sales
  • Happily make sales calls and pitch to new accounts, knowing that you sound polished & confident as you talk about your brand
  • Understand whether adding a broker or distribution is the right choice for you in your current stage of business – so that you continue to grow and start making money
  • Totally feel comfortable negotiating wholesale costs with Buyers, and have a clear picture of how much you’re actually making in your business
  • Have other food producers contacting you, asking “How did you do it?” as they see you gain more and more wholesale accounts

This four week, live online course runs fromAugust 28 to Sept. 22, 2017 and is uniquely positioned to help you rapidly assess, understand & grow your food business through homework assignments, conference calls, a private online group, and unlimited email support.

Join Food Industry Consultant and former Bi-Rite Market Grocery Buyer Allison Ball this fall to take your business to the next level.

Get A $100 dollar discount by using the code SCIENCE17 at checkout! 

You have an idea for a new food product – your friends think its great and you have never seen anything like it on the market. You want to manufacture it but have absolutely no idea where to begin!

You have two choices when faced with this daunting task- you can spend hours and hours figuring out everything from how to start a business, how to find a commercial kitchen or what are the local, state and federal regulations. Or you can hire food industry consultants to help you on the way. It really depends on how much time you have, and how much your time is worth.

Hiring a consultant to guide you on your path is an easy way to bring your product to market. Consultants have experience with co packers, sourcing ingredients and modifying formulas to fit manufacturing parameters. Here are a few things you should know about hiring and working wit a food science consultant:

Keep It Local: Try to find a consultant or a consulting firm that is close to where you live. Face to face meetings, visit to their laboratory/kitchen and group tastings are all great ways to have a good relationship with the consultant and expedite results.

Expect Big Costs: An independent Food science/industry consultant can cost you anywhere from $120 to $300 per hour for their expertise. A consulting firm may cost as much as $5,000 to $50,000 to even begin discussions. There will also be other costs that you need to pay separately like ingredient costs, shipping, lab testing, production runs, and third party analysis (sensory, chemistry, safety)- If you go to a consultant with only $5000 dollars, they will probably not take you on as a client. This is not enough funding to create, develop and manufacture your food product. They may be able to do certain parts of your projects (like you can hire them to JUST find you a co packer or do your nutritional analysis) but always keep in mind that bringing new products to market is expensive. Plan to have at least $25,000 available to spend on research, development and manufacturing.

Be Clear On Budget: Tell your consultant how much you have and how much you can afford to spend. They can figure out the best way to work with your budget, or they may be honest and tell you that they can’t help you without more funding. A moral food scientist will explain the overall costs and big picture expenses that you will have and will want you to have enough to make it through the entire process.

List Specific Deliverables: Be very specific with your consultant about what you want to achieve. If you have kitchen samples you have made, bring them a supply so they can evaluate with you and explain the limitations that may occur down the road. The more specific you are- the better the consultant can assist you.

Understand Capabilities: A food scientist is mostly just that- they are the technical expert- they may not be able to do your marketing, write your business plan, or confirm which flavors will sell best on the market. Make sure you understand what your technical consultant can and cannot do.

NDA’s and Ownership: Make it clear to the consultant that you want to own your own formulas and have them sign an NDA. Most food scientists have no interest in owning or stealing your formula, they create concepts for other people all day long but to be safe and legit, have them sign the NDA and confirm that you will own everything they develop for you.

Bringing a new product to market has many challenges- finding a co-packer, making sure all regulations are followed, using the right equipment and understanding manufacturing limitations are all technical know-how’s that a food scientist deals with on a regular basis. Hiring one will not only save you time but long term money as well. A food scientist will make sure that you don’t violate any regulations (resulting in fines and recalls and damaged reputation)- basically, don’t try to do this by yourself at home-leave it to the experts!

I am so excited about the upcoming Expo West Trade show in Anaheim, California– I can’t wait to walk the miles of aisles all teeming with entrepreneurs who are eager and hopeful about bringing their ideas to market. I love hearing their stories, their successes and their regrets about the path they took to get to where they are- and hearing about their challenges ahead! As a food scientist my job is to help entrepreneurs navigate the confusing food industry waters and figure out the right path and the right order of steps within that path! The more stories of confusion I hear, the more chapters I can add to my E-book The Food Business Tool-Kit for entrepreneurs-How To Research, Develop and Produce A New Food Product to alleviate that confusion!

I want to share a common practice that many entrepreneurs partake in that not only is a waste of time and money but can lead to incorrect assumptions about the food product you want to bring to market. This practice involves trying to develop a product on your own at home without any professional supervision. I am not talking about super early stage creations-sure you can make a few fun batches that represent your “concept” and show it to your family and friends—get some feedback. But it needs to stop there! I have had many entrepreneurs tell me about the months they have spent trying to get their product “just right” and they are ready to go to a manufacturer and make a go for it. When I look at their formula I sadly shake my head and tell them they have a long way to go to make it “commercial ready”. Here are some of the common mistakes that entrepreneurs make when developing products from their home (without professional food science supervision!)

Not Using Industrial Ingredients- Unless you are working with extremely commodity ingredients (sugar, vegetable oil, salt and perhaps water) anything you get from the supermarket is not going to be the same ingredient used at the manufacturing plant. Even something simple like the organic gluten free flour from whole foods- will perform differently in production. When you start using more complicated ingredients like pureed fruit, spices and protein powders – The supermarket brands are not the same, not even close! Spices in the supermarket are not nearly as fresh as what the manufacturer made, fruit purees are often concentrated to various brix levels for consistency and and most protein powders on the market are blended with flavorings and other sweeteners. The solution here is to work with industrial ingredients only. You will have to track down the ingredient suppliers that sell to manufacturers, request samples and work with those ingredients.

Not Using a Proper Scale: I have some sad news… the $25 dollar scale you bought online is not accurate. It usually measures to the nearest gram and in production, those half grams and partial grams are important. Spices and other lightweight items that you weighed out with your inexpensive scale are going to be inaccurate. You may think you weighted out 1 gram of oregano, but it could just as easily have been 1.5, but you will never know because your scale only went out to the 1-gram accuracy. My advice is to spend $300-$500 on a good scale that goes out to the 100th decimal point. So your 1.53 gram of spice weighs out to exactly that.

Relying On Nutritional Information Provided On The Supermarket Label Ingredient: I already mentioned you should not be using supermarket ingredients but for those who are or did, they also tend to rely on that nutritional information on the label. That nutritional label has already been extrapolated down and rounded to match up with the serving size on the package. The FDA regulations have lots of rounding rules that can result in a teaspoon of spice having no calories when actually Oregano has 38 calories per 100 grams and its 9% protein, 69% carbohydrates and 42% fiber. But if you look at a label on a spice jar in the store- it will probably say zero calories, zero carbohydrates, zero fiber. Yes, that may be the case for the tiny 3 gram serving that is recommended.

Not Knowing The Process: You can’t really develop a product if you don’t know how it will be ultimately processed. Unless you have millions of dollars and plan to build your own manufacturing plant and bring in special equipment from Italy- chances are the unique process you created by boiling, dehydrating, freezing, crumbling and adding back into your cake is just not going to fly at the manufacturing plant. Food manufacturers are not going to adapt their process to fit your idea unless you plan to pay for those adaptations. Your process needs to reflect the manufacturers process, not the other way around. I recommend that you find your manufacturer first- understand how they make the product and try to simulate your process to match theirs. This can be done by online research, checking out co-packer websites or simply networking and finding a local food scientist or food science university and asking the professors there for some assistance. Don’t assume that your method can be done in mass production (it probably can’t!)

Spending months perfecting your formula in your own kitchen is not an efficient use of time or funding. After a few initial basic prototypes that you show your family and friends, your next steps should be to either contact a food science consultant or find a manufacturer who can guide you through their processing steps so you understand how to create the product in a commercially viable way. If you hand over your homemade recipe with your own fruit concentrates and vanilla flavored protein powder from whole foods your co packer will probably tell you to recreate the formula so it can be made commercially. What does that mean though? It means follow the points I mention in this article.

Rachel Zemser is a food scientist who helps entrepreneurs bring their food products to market. Her website is www.alacarteconnections.com

Energy Bars, Health Bars, Nutrition Bars, Gym Bars—- Mommy Bars, Kid Bars and More! The bar industry is exploding and it seems like anyone who is on the go, wants a bar that fits their specific nutritional needs- and anyone with specific nutritional needs has a bar that they have created and want to bring to market.

6279292734_c7cbe2c5551980’s
Carbs Were Still Ok: Years ago there used to be granola bars—lots of oats, sugar, grains and fruit. They tasted pretty good and it was essentially granola cereal all baked together with sugar. A bar that emerged from the granola era—An era where we used to eat carbohydrates without guilt. Fat was the enemy and granola bars were fat free! Nature Valley comes to mind.

1990’s

Protein: Then the athletics came in- and they wanted a bar that would fit their workout needs. Thus was born the high protein “Power Bars” with lots of whey protein in there. But we were still anti fat and ok with sugar so the power bars were high in sugar. These no-bake bars were held together by their sugar-glue and were very hard and chewy. Lots of soy and whey pushed into a very small concentrated place. These bars didn’t need to be baked, with all that sugar the low water activity held them all together.

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Source: Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010
Sugar Alcohol: It then became unpopular to consume carbohydrates and the bar landscape changed. Companies like Quest emerged and replaced the sugar syrups with sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols used to be something that was consumed in small quantities by diabetics- so they could enjoy a small piece of chocolate but now sugar alcohols were being consumed in larger amounts and used to replace most or all of the sugar syrups found in bars.

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Source: Bodybuilding.com

 

 

 

 

2013
Soluble Fibers: Sugar alcohols started getting a bad rep because of the gastro-distress they caused. Bar companies turned to soluble fibers like chicory root, inulin, 0ligiosaccharides, prebiotic fiber, soluble corn fiber. There were lots of names and varieties but ultimately it translated to carbs that are not digested.

Fat is Ok: Guess what, we get to eat fats again- and not just olive oil but the stuff that used to be bad for us like saturated fats from coconut oil and palm oil. Remember when the CSPI said coconut oil and saturated fats were bad—well, now we are told its good! The bar market continued to emerge with bars very high in fat like coconut oil, palm oil and MCT (medium chain triglycerides). This was all propelled forward by Dave Asprey and his  Bullet Proof Coffee. Now we see bars emerging that are just dripping with oil and fat. This is ok—this is acceptable because there are no carbs, there are healthy fats and all the protein comes from nuts. Of course a bit of sugar is needed to keep it from getting moldy so the soluble fibers and sugar alcohols are used for water activity control.

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Source: Cavefoodkitchen.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016
Soluble Fiber Rules Change: In 2016 the FDA put out their updates including noting that not all soluble fibers would count as dietary fiber on the label. Fibers that count include natural fibers from fruits and vegetables but processed inulin fiber may not count. The FDA says, and I quote:

“The F.D.A. plans to publish a separate notice that will seek comment on the available scientific data on non-digestible carbohydrates. Publicly available clinical trial data will be identified and summarized for non-digestible carbohydrates, including inulin, bamboo fiber, soy fiber, pea fiber, wheat fiber, cotton seed fiber, sugar cane fiber, sugar beet fiber and oat fiber”

2015
Glycemic Index: But what about glycemic index?! That’s the new buzz word in the health bar space. Glycemic index and blood sugar are important and the emerging thought now is, its ok if the carbs are actually GASP* digested- but wouldn’t it be nice if it didn’t’ affect our blood sugar levels! The bars are now high in fat (from nuts and coconut- it’s so great not to have to worry about saturated fat anymore!)

2016
Sugar Is Back– FODMAP friendly bars: We have come full circle with a new bar trend- the latest bar trend uses actual glucose syrup (and in the spirit of keeping it real—let’s all agree that corn syrup, tapioca syrup, brown rice syrup and glucose syrup are all the same thing-just because its not high fructose corn syrup doesn’t mean its healthier) The goal of these bars is to get the FODMAPs, an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, AKA poorly absorbed carbohydrates- that cause severe abdominal pain, bloating, gas and constipation. I shake my head and wonder—how is this different from the very same high protein low fiber, high sugar Powerbars we used to eat so long ago. Its not– its the same concept, with a brand new marketing twist! Powerbar should have marketed their 90’s bar to the FODMAP sensitive people!

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Source: Nicerfoods.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016

Allulose Bars: A new emerging trend on the horizon. Allulose is a natural rare sugar that is created in bulk by enzymatically extracting it from Non-GMO corn. Allulose is not a sugar alcohol and it is not a soluble fiber. It is actually a sugar, you just pee it out. It tastes great, it lowers water activity, it doesn’t cause FODMAP issues. Could allulose be the answer to our prayers? It probably will once consumers can be educated to understand that the sugar from allulose listed on a label doesn’t count – not much anyway. It’s about 0.29 calories per gram. The FDA has some recommended levels on it that may or may not be followed- we don’t really know yet because no one has actually put out any products with allulose—YET! That will change in 2017!

2016

Refrigerated Bars
It started with Core Foods (they were doing it back in 2009!) and now we have Perfect Bar– both bars don’t rely on high sugar (or sugar alcohols or soluble fibers) to lower water activity to inhibit mold—because they have the cold refrigerated air to keep the bacteria at bay. What a novel, new and exciting idea—refrigeration! Fresh Food! This emerging bar category is one to keep an eye on! A move away from bars that need some form of sugar (digestible or not) to keep it safe won’t be necessary if we keep it cold. A short shelf life will be involved though!

 

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Source: A Dancer In the Kitchen Blogspot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The energy bar world has evolved and changed over the past 10 years and we are now at a point where the trend is basically to eat and excrete. The less food from that bar that you eat and the more you push out of your body—the more popular the bar becomes. Bar entrepreneurs consider anything that is a fiber or sugar alcohol as not counting towards the net carbs- or they think it’s not going to be digested. (this is not totally true as parts of some fibers are digested –as the FDA is beginning to regulate-but no one really talks about that!)

2017 and Beyond

What’s Next

What kind of bar will be next—I have an idea! How about a RETORT bar— yes, this would be a bar that would be pushed into flexible pouch packaging, heated to 250’F to ensure no botulism and to make the product completely sterile. Water activity won’t be a concern, it won’t need refrigeration and pH won’t matter. It will be like the cans of tuna fish that are now in a pouch- on the shelf. Shelf stable retorted energy bars- you heard it from me first!

I get calls from lots of start up companies asking me how they can keep their label “clean” and ensure that their product has no preservatives, is all natural and uses fresh local ingredients—oh and they also want it to be affordable and shelf stable too!

Everyone wants their product to hit all the current trend buttons (natural, clean label, locally sourced, GMO Free, Organic) – but sometimes you have to compromise in order to ensure that you are creating something that is both safe and affordable- and it also helps to understand that just because something sounds like it is not natural, doesn’t mean that it isn’t!

Lets start with mold inhibitors- anyone who wants their somewhat moist baked good to last on the shelf is going to have to keep the fuzzy stuff at bay –and there are a wide variety of natural and synthetic versions. Potassium sorbate for example is a great yeast and mold inhibitor that is inexpensive and works in a wide variety of pH’s and food bases- it’s not natural but it does the job! Sodium benzoate is also cheap, synthetic and keeps the bad bacteria at bay! There are more natural options that you can use- and they are called cultured dextrose- (sold locally by Mezonni Foods http://www.mezzonifoods.com/) – It’s a cleaner label bacteria inhibitor that is created via fermentation of milk and sugar with probiotic organisms and works in a wide variety of applications like salad dressings and cured meats, soups and dairy products. They cost more but allow you to maintain a “natural” statement on your label (assuming all other ingredients are natural as well). Of course you can always cook your product (IE canned foods and jarred shelf stable sauces often just rely on heat as a the preservation method-however any thermal process must be approved by your local health inspector and the FDA!) or you can add tons of salt or sugar- those too can inhibit bacteria by lowering the water activity of the product.

What about flavorings? No one in the specialty food industry wants to put artificial flavor in their products and that is understandable but keep in mind that natural flavors are more expensive and less concentrated than artificial so you need to use more of them to get a flavor impact. If you want to flavor up a lemon cake- you may only need 0.02% artificial flavor but would have to use 2 to 3% of a natural flavor to get the same effect—AND that natural flavor is going to cost you more money. So what can you do? You can use a flavor called WONF (with other natural flavors) which is a blend of similar flavors used to make up the flavor you like but at a slightly reduced cost- you can tell your flavor supplier that you want an “off the shelf” flavor that they may already sell to several companies (a stock flavor) that they probably produce in bulk at a cheaper price. Talk to your flavor supplier about options!

Even starches can fall in the natural or not natural category—If a starch is referred to as a “modified food starch” it is not a natural thickener—you need to ask your supplier to provide you with a natural “unmodified” food starch. There are also other ways to thicken a product like via dehydration or evaporation of water—using tomato paste (if your product is tomato based), or experimenting with gums and hydrocolloids. Most hydrocolloids are natural like xanthan, gum Arabic, and gum acacia. Gum supplier websites like TIC (www.ticgums.com) have a wealth of information about gums and to use them to improve everything from particulate suspension to moisture retention in your food products.

There are always natural alternatives in the world of ingredients and it’s just a matter of balancing out what you need with the right price point.

Lets face it, we all love sugar! Not only does it taste great, but it’s incredibly functional providing bulk and structure to baked goods, confections and a multitude of other food products. Sugar is amazing—except that we all need to limit our intake. Sugar leads to diabetes and obesity and cavities and lots of other health problems. Unfortunately this wonderful delicious functional ingredient can only be consumed in small amounts.

There are lots of sugar substitutes out there that can help the nutritional profile of your product but most have drawbacks. High intensity sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit may not have any calories, but they also don’t have any bulk or functional capabilities. Have you ever tried to make a cake out of stevia—not possible! There are also sugar alcohols out there like Sorbitol, Xylitol and Erythritol, which are commonly found in gum and sugar free candy. Consumers need to be careful when eating products that contain sugar alcohol. If you have ever eaten a whole chocolate bar made with sorbitol, you know why—it can cause grumbly stomachs and gas in sensitive consumers.

There are two new exciting sweet ingredients on the market that can help you, the formulator, control sugar in your products but still provide the bulk you need to create those products! You may have seen the word Chicory Root Fiber, Inulin or the scarier sounding “Oligiosaccharide” on labels of food products that have a nice dose of fiber. All of these ingredients are in the same family of “prebiotics”. Prebiotics are a category of functional fiber ingredients that stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial “good” bacteria in the colon. Most prebiotics come in both syrup and powder form and have less than 3% glucose. The powder form is typically around 95% fiber and the syrup, which is a blend of the powder and water- is around 70%. They both have a light sweet taste (about 50-60% of sucrose). Prebiotics essentially can be used to replace all or part of the sugar in your formula with fiber. Your carbohydrate content can stay the same, but your grams of sugar are now grams of fiber and your product will have a lower glycemic index. You can call it “dietary fiber” on your label and educate your consumer on the benefits of prebiotics in their food. The company Vita Fiber (bioneutra.ca) sells prebiotic fiber in retail sized containers or in 25 KG containers. It can be used in candy, granola, beverages, trail mix and anything that could have or would have contained sugar. Manufacturers take note- like with all fiber products, some consumers may be sensitive to large quantities consumed in one sitting. Make sure your portion sizes have no more than 5 or 6 grams of “dietary fiber” per serving.

The second ingredient worth exploring is a bit more complex and difficult to procure and it has some development restrictions. Allulose is a brand new sugar replacement on the market that virtually no one is using… yet! Allulose is a very low calorie (0.39 calories per gram) sugar that tastes exactly like sugar, because it is! It official sugar name is D-Psicose, and it is one of the many different sugars that exists in nature in very small quantities. It was first identified in wheat and has since been found in corn, figs and raisins. It is a monosaccharide (simple sugar) that is recognized as a carbohydrate and absorbed by the body but is not metabolized, so it is essentially calorie free and has no impact on blood glucose levels. Allulose is not yet available in supermarkets but manufacturers can order it directly and use it in moderate amounts in their food product creations. Allulose has received Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status from the FDA. There are two companies that sell allulose- Tate &Lyle and a non-GMO version from The Anderson Global Group.

Prebiotic fibers and D-Psicose are both great ways to reduce sugar, increase fiber and help consumers manage their glucose response. Unlike high intensity sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia, which must be used in combination with maltodextrins, these two ingredients already have bulking capacity and can provide the function you need without the calories or sugar.

As a food scientist who works directly with MANY start up companies (My book The Food Business Toolkit was designed just for them!) I am happy that the FDA has finally taken a stand and pointed out Hampton Creek label violations including mislabeling the product as “mayo” when it clearly is not as well as multiple other violations related to fat grams and health claims.

For those who have not seen this letter– It can be read HERE:

http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2015/ucm458824.htm

I have been working as a consultant for the past 7 years for large companies like Plum Organics and Kraft foods and with multiple smaller start ups and I have found that the larger the company (or the “Big Food” companies) the more inclined they are to try their hardest to follow the rules and go by the book. Not because they want to—after all FDA regulations are designed to prevent marketing from “misleading” us — but because they don’t want to get caught and have their product pulled from the shelves in a major FDA recall, be the focus of articles and have their reputation destroyed.

It’s always the smaller companies that feel that they can get away with or deserve to get away with regulation violations. Some companies feel that they are so small that no one will notice their health claims or too big serving sizes (the bigger the serving the more protein in your portion right?) But start ups also believe that because they are not a large corporation and are using what they feel are healthier or more sustainable ingredients- they deserve to be able to bend the rules—just a tiny bit—after all they are saving the world, whats a minor label infraction or two.

Bending the rules in my mind means misleading the consumer. Misleading the consumer gives Hampton Creek a competitive edge and allows them to sell more product. In this case their product is essentially oil and modified food starch.  I am sure most people who read the news are well aware that “Just Mayo” does not contain eggs  but still there are lots of people out there that don’t read up on food media and are not aware that it is not really a mayonnaise and they are being deceived. At what point do we draw the line on deception?

Hampton Creek has a picture of an egg on the label—if I didn’t read the news I would think that meant there were eggs in it! Yes there is a pea plant growing within the egg but I am not a botanist so to me it just looks like an egg on the label with a cute flower design.

I guess I am left with confusion. Was the mislabel intentional? Was it done to help sell more products—or was it done out of pure ignorance and human error as expressed in Josh’s August 7 blog about other Hampton Creek issues (calling lemon juice concentrate “lemon juice”, short changed shelf life studies and unlisted preservatives). Hampton Creek has published their 120 million +investment money from Bill Gates and others. With that kind of funding, one could hire a regulatory team to ensure your label is error free.  I bet for under $5,000 they could have had a compliant label with accurate information that did not mislead consumers into thinking Just Mayo has fresh lemon juice and eggs.

That is – if they WANTED to have that accuracy.

Lots of small companies get away with label violations ALL THE TIME! I see the errors at trade shows and with my clients who ask me to review their labels. But Hampton Creek has been big news for awhile, lots of media attention. Attention was drawn to this matter by the Unilever dropped lawsuit and Hampton Creek was actually happy for the publicity which made them look like the underdog getting kicked around by “Big Food” companies—that attention may have gotten them into Walmart and my local Lundardi’s but it also got the attention of the FDA.

But now Hampton Creek (or Josh) is saying that they WON’T change the label. They don’t think its deceptive. They say check out the small print on the back.

Their goal is to fight “Big Food Companies” and make sustainable food and “start over” but all I see are Mayonnaise with less than 2% pea protein and Cookies with less than 2% Sorghum– their two MAGIC ingredients are in the “less than” 2% category which means (as all trained food scientists know) that it really could be as low as 0.02%.

I feel the need to reiterate this: The sorghum and the pea protein have nothing to do with the functional success of this product. They are just in there for marketing.

Do you know what the REAL magic ingredients are– the real magic here is modified food starch and sugar and fat. I am willing to bet that anyone reading this blog, be it mommy bloggers to experienced chefs could make a egg free cookie or a food starch thickened oil and toss in a sprinkle of pea protein and sorghum. As a matter of fact, I think I may make some tomorrow and post the recipes here. Stay tuned for that!

I wonder– is modified food starch sustainable? I have spent the last 9 years fulfilling client requests to take it OUT of their product but we all know its a superior emulsifier so I don’t blame Hampton creek for keeping it in since pea protein is not known for its amazing emulsification properties.

Three years ago I got a inquiry from a Hampton Creek recruiter. She asked me if I knew anyone looking for a food science job. The salary levels she quoted were embarrassingly low – I had to tell her that I could only recommend entry level interns for what they were offering to pay. Perhaps this is why they have ended up with a 9th grade food science fair project similar to the ones I judge every year in Golden Gate Park.

Companies like Hampton Creek and Sandhill Foods and many others are beginning to come across as all talk. Smooth talking sale folk hiding in university professor clothing and hipster hoodies have been able to hypnotize investors into handing over fortunes but neither pitcher nor investor ever do their homework. They just assume that because BIG FOOD has not put it out on the market yet it must be because they were not sustainable enough to think of it. I hate to break the news but Kraft Foods and Unilever actually hire really smart food scientists. I have worked in both places (my first job ever was at Unilever in 1996 and I was at Kraft foods in 2012) and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from the best of the best!

My words of advice to Hampton Creek– hire some real food scientists and pay them a real bay area salary (that would be at least 120K a year for someone with 8 years experience). Some of the smartest food scientists I ever worked with were at Kraft Foods and a whole bunch of them recently lost their jobs in the Kraft-Heinz merger so they may be available to hire if you give them something HARD to work on– like Science!

 

 

 

 

 

A salt meter can help you measure…. SALT percentages for consistency and accuracy in final products!

A carpenter has his saw and hammer, a doctor has wooden sticks and stethoscopes and a food scientist has refractometers, water activity units, pH meters, bostwick, brookfield and salt analyzers. The more tools we have, the better we are at ensuring consistency and accuracy in both the creation and manufacturing of food products. What are these tools and how can they help you, the food maker, make consistent quality products that will never disappoint your clients.

Water Activity: These units measure the amount of “available” water in your energy bars, gummy bears and rice crispy treats. Your goal is to have a Aw reading below 0.65 to ensure no yeast and mold growth. These units typically cost around $2,000 dollars and can be used for quality control, product consistency and will help ensure that each batch will consistently last as long as the last batch.

Refractometer: In the wine world, refractometers are used to measure the amount of sugar in grapes- or the “brix”-so the wine makers know when the grapes are ready to be picked. In the food world, a refractometer is used to measure sugar and other “soluble solids” in an edible product. If you are making beverages this will ensure that the person who made the batch added the right amount of sugar, salt, caffeine and anything else that dissolved in your water or liquid base. When you buy a refractometer make sure that you purchase one with a brix “range” that fits your product. If you are making candy, you want a refractometer that can measure a range of 50 to 100, if you are making a beverage, you may only need a 0 to 50% range.

pH Meters: Acidity is important in food, not only for safety but also for flavor and quality. There are lots of pH meters on the market and you can buy a good one for under $300. Make sure you also purchase calibration fluids and calibrate your pH meter before you use it every time.

Bostwick: The Bostick, also known as a “consistometer” is a tool used in the sauce and condiment industry. It is a simple metal trough that is about 14 inches long. The Trough has a spring-loaded gate at one end, into which you load your sauce product. When you release the gate, the condiment slowly (or quickly) travels down the slightly angled trough and the distance that the trough travels in 30 seconds is your final reading. The thicker the condiment, the less distance it will travel.

Brookfield: A Brookfield unit is used to measure the viscosity of fluids. It consists of a metal spindle that pushes its way through a liquid or syrup—measuring the force or internal friction of that fluid. It is used to ensure that the mouth feel and texture of food products like yogurt or syrups are the same from batch to batch.

Salt Analyzers: A salt analyzer is just that—you take a drop of your solution mixture, place it on the readable unit, press a button and in less than a minute you will know the percent salt of your solution. Typical salt solutions will read between 0 and 5% or 0 and 10%.

These simple tools are available online or you can go directly to the manufacturer websites and order directly from them. I have complied a list of amazon available tools on my website RESOURCES page.

Even Food Scientists have Farmer Market dreams! 

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Every day I get inquiries from people who want to bring their food product to market. They all tell me their stories about how they want to recreate their grandmother’s cookies or their Dad’s BBQ sauce. They all tell me they want to start off by selling their product at the local Farmers Market!

Well—I always kinda wondered, is there really a profit in selling artisan food products at the farmers market? If you were to add up the hours to make the product, plus anyone you pay to assist you, the commercial kitchen, the licenses, the insurance, Farmer’s Market fee—would it really end up being a profitable experience? Then of course is the bigger question of—do you want to give up your weekend sitting at stand when you could be out running, wine tasting, or walking around the farmers market yourself?

I decided to take the plunge and make my own product to sell at a farmers market. Why not? I am a food scientist with connections to every ingredient supplier in the U.S! I know where to get Non GMO Glucose, Xanthan gum and natural flavors with a 25 lb minimum! I also know how to write a nutrition label, make legal claims and jack up levels of protein and good fats to meet whatever the latest trend of the day is! I have powdered honey and dehydrated avocado in my lab!

Because I don’t want any liability lawsuits, I am going to go Cottage Industry (making a NON potentially hazardous food from a non commercialized kitchen). The Cottage Industry can only be used to make safe shelf stable products like popcorn, candy, standardized jams and baked goods. Anything that does NOT have to be refrigerated for safety is ok.

So I decided to do Marshmallows. One will be high caffeine+ high protein, the other will be high protein but no caffeine and a third type will be high caffeine and no protein. That way I can target three markets—the Paleo’s, the workaholics and the workaholic Paleos.

It didn’t take me long to figure out what I need to do in a general way. I need some protein powder for the protein marshmallows combined with some sugar alcohols (not too much—they cause gastro-distress) to keep the carbs down. For the caffeine version I need some good bitter blockers and some good sweet seasonings like powdered molasses, powder honey and Dehydrated fruit powders.

Then I put my intern to work—making multiple iterations to get it right!

That is where I am at now— Non food scientists call this perfecting the recipe. Food Scientists call it R&D trials. I already have my Aw (water activity) unit ready to ensure that my total Aw is well below 0.85 (I want a good shelf life) and I am going to keep my caffeine levels in a range that won’t piss off the FDA . I will gotta decide which protein to use- whey, soy, potato?

The seed has been planted and next step is to finish my trials and start doing my shelf life, nutritional labels and cost reductions.

Stay Tune For Part 2— navigating my way through the California cottage industry regulations!

I am getting bored here— bored and tired of waiting for these start up marketing (oh- I mean FOOD) companies to come out with their promised non meat substitutes.

A company called Impossible Foods (Sandhill something or other) has been “talking” for years about their so called FAKE beef- that is just like the real thing– YET despite the millions of dollars they have been given by clueless venture capitalists, they have only put out some lame vegan cheese on the market– same as what many other companies have been doing for years.

Hampton Creek– for all their talk- has only made an egg free mayo (big deal) and cookies made with amaranth– (and… so? the cookies are not that great they just taste like dry egg free cookies– and whatever, throw some chocolate chips into anything and it will taste good)

I have news— all these fake meats and dairy products that will supposedly taste like the real thing– the WON’T— they will taste good enough to brainwash you into thinking it taste similar, but it won’t.

Both Sandhill (Impossible Foods?) and Hampton Creek have one goal only– to get their name out there, raise money and then waste it making silly products that have already been made before. The millions that they raise (and then spend) could be put to better use.  Why can’t these companies admit that they are just trying to create products to help them prove their agenda (which have nothing to do with health and everything to do with animal treatment) and their philosophy and the only way they know how to do this is -how to spread their agenda… is to make something tangible– a food product–

I wish the talkers and dreamers would do just that and not spend good money on making bad tasting food products.

More on this when its not 3 AM